Full text of "Poems"
University of California • Berkeley
EARLY POEMS, NARRATIVE POEMS,
THE FIRST VOLUME
EARLY POEMS, NARRATIVE POEMS,
NEW AND COMPLETE EDITION
MACMILLAN AND CO.
iM DCCC LXXVII
BY E. PICKARD HALL, M.A., AND J. H. STACY,
PRINTERS TO THE UNIVERSITY.
SONNETS : —
QUIET WORK ....
TO A FRIEND ....
WRITTEN IN EMERSON'S ESSAYS
WRITTEN IN butler's SERMONS
TO THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON
*IN HARMONY WITH NATURE' .
TO GEORGE CRUIKSHANK
TO A REPUBLICAN FRIEND, 1 848
A MODERN SAPPHO .
YOUTH AND CALM .
THE NEW SIRENS
THE world's triumphs
TO A GIPSY CHILD BY THE SEASHORE
IN UTRUMQUE PARATUS .
THE WORLD AND THE QUIETEST
THE SECOND BEST ....
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM
THE SICK KING IN BOKHARA .
BALDER DEAD : —
2. JOURNEY TO THE DEAD
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT : —
1. TRISTRAM .
2. ISEULT OF IRELAND .
3. ISEULT OF BRITTANY .
THE NECKAN ....
THE FORSAKEN MERMAN .
A TOMB AMONG THE MOUNTAINS
AUSTERITY OF POETRY .
A PICTURE AT NEWSTEAD
RACHEL: I, II, III
EAST LONDON .
WEST LONDON .
EAST AND WEST
THE BETTER PART
THE DIVINITY .
THE GOOD SHEPHERD WITH THE KID
MONICA'S LAST PRAYER .
/^NE lesson, Nature, let me learn of thee, v.
One lesson which in every wind is blown,
One lesson of two duties kept at one
Though the loud world proclaim their enmity —
Of toil unsever'd from tranquillity.
Of labour, that in lasting fruit outgrows
Far noisier schemes, accomplish'd in repose,
Too great for haste, too high for rivalry.
Yes, while on earth a thousand discords ring,
Man's senseless uproar mingling with his toil,
Still do thy quiet ministers move on.
Their glorious tasks in silence perfecting;
Still working, blaming still our vain turmoil,
Labourers that shall not fail, w^hen man is gone.
To a Friend.
"Xl THO prop, thou ask'st, in these bad days, my
mind ? —
He much, the old man, who, clearest-soul'd of men,
Saw The Wide Prospect, and the Asian Fen,^
And Tmolus hill, and Smyrna bay, though blind.
Much he, whose friendship I not long since won,
That halting slave, who in Nicopolis
Taught Arrian, when Vespasian's brutal son
Clear'd Rome of what most shamed him. But be his
My special thanks, whose even-balanced soul,
From first youth tested up to extreme old age.
Business could not make dull, nor passion wild ;
Who saw life steadily, and saw it whole;
The mellow glory of the Attic stage,
Singer of sweet Colonus, and its child.
ZITHERS abide our question. Thou art free.
We ask and ask — Thou smilest and art still,
Out-topping knowledge. For the loftiest hill
Who to the stars uncrowns his majesty,
Planting his stedfast footsteps in the sea,
Making the heaven of heavens his dwelling-place,
Spares but the cloudy border of his base
To the foil'd searching of mortality;
And thou, who didst the stars and sunbeams know,
Self-school'd, self-scann'd, self-honour'd, self-secure.
Didst stand on earth unguess'd at. — Better so!
All pains the immortal spirit must endure,
All weakness which impairs, all griefs which bow,
Find their sole voice in that victorious brow.
Writte?i in Emersoiis Essays.
' r\ MONSTROUS, dead, unprofitable world,
That thou canst hear, and hearing, hold thy way !
A voice oracular hath peal'd to-day,
To-day a hero's banner is unfurl'd;
Hast thou no lip for welcome V — So I said.
Man after man, the world smiled and pass'd by ;
A smile of wistful increduhty
As though one spake of noise unto the dead —
Scornful, and strange, and sorrowful, and full
Of bitter knowledge. Yet the will is free;
Strong is the soul, and wise, and beautiful;
The seeds of godlike power are in us still;
Gods are we, bards, saints, heroes, if we will! —
Dumb judges, answer, truth or mockery.?
Written in Butler s Sermons.
A FFECTIONS, Instincts, Principles, and Powers,
Impulse and Reason, Freedom and Control —
So men, unravelling God's harmonious whole,
Rend in a thousand shreds this life of ours.
Vain labour ! Deep and broad, where none may see,
Spring the foundations of that shadowy throne
Where man's one nature, queen-like, sits alone,
Centred in a majestic unity;
And rays her powers, like sister-islands seen
Linking their coral arms under the sea,
Or cluster'd peaks with plunging gulfs between
Spann'd by aerial arches all of gold,
Whereo'er the chariot wheels of life are roll'd
In cloudy circles to eternity.
To the Duke of Wellingto7t
ON HEARING HIM MISPRAISED.
T)ECAUSE thou hast believed, the wheels of life
Stand never idle, but go always round;
Not by their hands, who vex the patient ground,
Moved only; but by genius, in the strife
Of all its chafing torrents after thaw,
Urged ; and to feed whose movement, spinning sand,
The feeble sons of pleasure set their hand;
And, in this vision of the general law,
Hast labour'd, but with purpose; hast become
Laborious, persevering, serious, firm —
For this, thy track, across the fretful foam
Of vehement actions without scope or term,
Call'd history, keeps a splendour; due to wit,
Which saw one clue to life, and follow'd it.
In Harmony with Nature.
TO A PREACHER.
' TN harmony with Nature?' Restless fool,
Who with such heat dost preach what were to thee,
When true, the last impossibility —
To be like Nature strong, like Nature cool!
Know, man hath all which Nature hath, but more,
And in that more lie all his hopes of good.
Nature is cruel, man is sick of blood;
Nature is stubborn, man would fain adore ;
Nature is fickle, man hath need of rest ;
Nature forgives no debt, and fears no grave;
Man would be mild, and with safe conscience blest.
Man must begin, know this, where Nature ends ;
Nature and man can never be fast friends.
Fool, if thou canst not pass her, rest her slave !
To George Q'liiksJiaiik
ON SEEING, IN THE COUNTRY, HIS PICTURE
OF *THE BOTTLE.'
A RTIST, whose hand, with horror wing'd, hath torn
From the rank Hfe of towns this leaf! and flung
The prodigy of full-blown crime among
Valleys and men to middle fortune born,
Not innocent, indeed, yet not forlorn —
Say, what shall calm us, when such guests intrude,
Like comets on the heg-venly solitude ?
Shall breathless glades, cheer'd by shy Dian's horn,
Cold-bubbling springs, or caves ? — Not so ! The soul
Breasts her own griefs ; and, urged too fiercely, says :
* Why tremble ? True, the nobleness of man
May be by man effaced; man can control
To pain, to death, the bent of his own days.
Know thou the worst ! So much, not more, he can!
To a Republican Friend^ 1848.
/^^OD knows it, I am with you. If to prize
Those virtues, prized and practised by too few,
But prized, but loved, but eminent in you,
Man's fundamental life ; if to despise
The barren optimistic sophistries
Of comfortable moles, whom what they do
Teaches the limit of the just and true
(And for such doing they require not eyes);
If sadness at the long heart-wasting show
Wherein earth's great ones are disquieted ;
If thoughts, not idle, while before me flow
The armies of the homeless and unfed —
If these are yours, if this is what you are.
Then am I yours, and what you feel, I share.
\/ET, when I muse on what life is, I seem
Rather to patience prompted, than that proud
Prospect of hope which France proclaims so loud —
France, famed in all great arts, in none supreme;
Seeing this vale, this earth, whereon we dream,
Is on all sides o'ershadow'd by the high
Uno'erleap'd mountains of necessity.
Sparing us narrower margin than we deem.
Nor will that day dawn at a human nod,
When, bursting through the network superposed
By selfish occupation — plot and plan,
Lust, avarice, envy — liberated man,
All difference with his fellow-mortal closed,
Shall be left standing face to face with God.
TO THE SAME FRIEND.
/"^HILDREN (as such forgive them) have I known,
Ever in their own eager pastime bent
To make the incurious bystander, intent
On his own swarming thoughts, an interest own —
Too fearful or to fond to play alone.
Do thou, whom light in thine own inmost soul
(Not less thy boast) illuminates, control
Wishes unworthy of a man full-grown.
What though the holy secret, which moulds thee,
Moulds not the soHd earth.? though never winds
Have whisper'd it to the complaining sea,
Nature's great law, and law of all men's minds? —
To its owm impulse every creature stirs;
Live by thy light, and earth will live by hers.
M Y C E R I N U S.^
' IVJOT by the justice that my father spurn'd,
Not for the thousands whom my father slew,
Altars unfed and temples overturn'd,
Cold hearts and thankless tongues, where thanks
were due ;
Fell this dread voice from lips that cannot lie,
Stern sentence of the Powers of Destiny.
* I will unfold my sentence and my crime.
My crime — that, rapt in reverential awe,
I sate obedient, in the fiery prime
Of youth, self-govern'd, at the feet of Law;
Ennobling this dull pomp, the life of kings.
By contemplation of diviner things.
' My father loved injustice, and lived long ;
Crown' d with grey hairs he died, and full of sway
I loved the good he scorn'd, and hated wrong —
The Gods declare my recompence to-day.
I look'd for life more lasting, rule more high ;
And when six years are measured, lo, I die !
* Yet surely, O my people, did I deem
Man's justice from the all-just Gods was given;
A light that from some upper fount did beam,
Some better archetype, whose seat was heaven;
A light that, shining from the blest abodes,
Did shadow somewhat of the life of Gods.
* Mere phantoms of man's self-tormenting heart,
Which on the sweets that woo it dares not feed !
Vain dreams, which quench our pleasures, then
When the duped soul, self-master'd, claims its meed ;
When, on the strenuous just man. Heaven bestows,
Crown of his struggling life, an unjust close.
' Seems it so light a thing then, austere Powers,
To spurn man's common lure, life's pleasant things .''
Seems there no joy in dances crown'd with flowers.
Love, free to range, and regal banquetings ?
Bend ye on these, indeed, an unmoved eye,
Not Gods but ghosts, in frozen apathy .?
' Or is it that some Force, too stern, too strong,
Even for yourselves to conquer or beguile,
1 6 MYCERINUS.
Bears earth, and heaven, and men, and gods along.
Like the broad volume of the insurgent Nile?
And the great powers we serve, themselves may be
Slaves of a tyrannous necessity?
' Or in mid-heaven, perhaps, your golden cars,
Where earthly voice climbs never, wing their flight,
And in wild hunt, through mazy tracts of stars,
Sweep in the sounding stillness of the night ?
Or in deaf ease, on thrones of dazzKng sheen.
Drinking deep draughts of joy, ye dwell serene ?
*0h, wherefore cheat our youth, if thus it be,
Of one short joy, one lust, one pleasant dream?
Stringing vain words of powers we cannot see,
Blind divinations of a will supreme;
Lost labour ! when the circumambient gloom
But hides, if Gods, Gods careless of our doom?
' The rest I give to joy. Even while I speak
My sand runs short; and as yon star-shot ray,
Hemm'd by two banks of cloud, peers pale and weak,
Now, as the barrier closes, dies away;
Even so do past and future intertwine,
Blotting this six years' space, which yet is mine.
* Six years — six little years — six drops of time !
Yet suns shall rise, and many moons shall wane,
And old men die, and young men pass their prime,
And languid pleasure fade and flower again ;
And the dull Gods behold, ere these are flown.
Revels more deep, joy keener than their own.
'Into the silence of the groves and woods
I win go forth; though something would I say —
Something — yet what, I know not; for the Gods
The doom they pass revoke not, nor delay ;
And prayers, and gifts, and tears, are fruitless all.
And the night waxes, and the shadows fall.
' Ye men of Egypt, ye have heard your king !
I go, and I return not. But the will
Of the great Gods is plain ; and ye must bring
111 deeds, ill passions, zealous to fulfil
Their pleasure, to their feet; and reap their praise,
The praise of Gods, rich boon ! and length of days.'
— So spake he, half in anger, half in scorn ;
And one loud cry of grief and of amaze
Broke from his sorrowing people; so he spake,
VOL. I. c
1 8 MYCERINUS.
And turning, left them there ; and with brief pause,
Girt with a throng of revellers, bent his way
To the cool region of the groves he loved.
There by the river-banks he wander'd on,
From palm-grove on to palm-grove, happy trees.
Their smooth tops shining sunward, and beneath
Burying their unsunn'd stems in grass and flowers ;
Where in one dream the feverish time of youth
Might fade in slumber, and the feet of joy
Might wander all day long and never tire.
Here came the king, holding high feast, at morn,
Rose-crown'd ; and ever, when the sun went down,
A hundred lamps beam'd in the tranquil gloom.
From tree to tree all through the twinkling grove.
Revealing all the tumult of the feast —
Flush'd guests, and golden goblets foam'd with wine ;
While the deep-burnish'd foliage overhead
Splinter'd the silver arrows of the moon.
It may be that sometimes his wondering soul
From the loud joyful laughter of his lips
Might shrink half startled, like a guilty man
Who wrestles with his dream; as some pale shape,
Gliding half hidden through the dusky stems.
Would thrust a hand before the lifted bowl,
Whispering : A little space, and thou art mine !
It may be on that joyless feast his eye
Dwelt with mere outward seeming; he, within,
Took measure of his soul, and knew its strength.
And by that silent knowledge, day by day,
Was calm'd, ennobled, comforted, sustain'd.
It may be; but not less his brow was smooth,
And his clear laugh fled ringing through the gloom,
And his mirth quail'd not at the mild reproof
Sigh'd out by winter's sad tranquillity;
Nor, pall'd with its own fulness, ebb'd and died
In the rich languor of long summer-days ;
Nor wither'd, when the palm-tree plumes that roof d
With their mild dark his grassy banquet- hall.
Bent to the cold winds of the showerless spring ;
No, nor grew dark when autumn brought the clouds.
So six long years he revell'd, night and day.
And when the mirth wax'd loudest, with dull sound
Sometimes from the grove's centre echoes came,
To tell his wondering people of their king;
In the still night, across the steaming flats,
Mix'd with the murmur of the moving Nile.
A MODERN SAPPHO.
npHEY are gone — all is still ! Foolish heart, dost thou
Nothing stirs on the lawn but the quick lilac-shade.
Far up shines the house, and beneath flows the river —
Here lean, my head, on this cold balustrade !
Ere he come — ere the boat, by the shining-branch'd border
Of dark elms shoot round, dropping down the proud
Let me pause, let me strive, in myself make some order,
Ere their boat-music sound, ere their broider'd flags
Last night we stood earnestly talking together;
She enter'd — that moment his eyes turn'd from me !
Fastened on her dark hair, and her wreath of white
As yesterday was, so to-morrow will be.
A MODERN SAPPHO. 21
Their love, let me know, must grow strong and yet stronger.
Their passion burn more, ere it ceases to burn.
They must love — while they must! but the hearts that
Are rare — ah ! most loves but flow once, and return.
I shall suffer — but they will outlive their affection;
I shall weep — but their love will be cooling ; and he,
As he drifts to fatigue, discontent, and dejection,
Will be brought, thou poor heart, how much nearer
to thee !
For cold is his eye to mere beauty, who, breaking
The strong band which passion around him hath furl'd,
Disenchanted by habit, and newly awaking,
Looks languidly round on a gloom-buried world.
Through that gloom he will see but a shadow appearing,
Perceive but a voice as I come to his side.
— But deeper their voice grows, and nobler their bearing.
Whose youth in the fires of anguish hath died.
So, to wait ! But what notes down the vvind, hark !
are driving ?
'Tis he ! 'tis their flag, shooting round by the trees ! —
22 A MODERN SAPPHO.
Let my turn, if it wi7l come, be swift in arriving!
Ah! hope cannot long lighten torments like these.
Hast thou yet dealt him, O life, thy full measure?
World, have thy children yet bow'd at his knee?
Hast thou with myrtle-leaf crown'd him, O pleasure ?
— Crown, crown him quickly, and leave him for me.
gTREW on her roses, roses,
And never a spray of yew 1
In quiet she reposes;
Ah! would that I did too.
Her mirth the world required ;
She bathed it in smiles of glee.
But her heart was tired, tired,
And now they let her be.
Her hfe was turning, turning,
In m.azes of heat and sound;
But for peace her soul was yearning,
And now peace laps her round.
Her cabin'd, ample spirit,
It fluttered and fail'd for breath;
To-night it doth inherit
The vasty hall of death.
YOUTH AND CALM.
"npiS death! and peace, indeed, is here,
And ease from shame, and rest from fear.
There 's nothing can dismarble now
The smoothness of that hmpid brow.
But is a calm like this, in truth,
The crowning end of life and youth,
And when this boon rewards the dead.
Are all debts paid, has all been said?
And is the heart of youth so light.
Its step so firm, its eye so bright.
Because on its hot brow there blows
A wind of promise and repose
From the far grave, to which it goes;
Because it has the hope to come,
One day, to harbour in the tomb?
Ah no, the bliss youth dreams is one
For daylight, for the cheerful sun,
For feeling nerves and living breath —
Youth dreams a bliss on this side death.
YOUTH AND CALM.
It dreams a rest, if not more deep,
More grateful than this marble sleep;
It hears a voice within it tell :
Calm 's not lifes crown, though calm is well,
'Tis all perhaps which man acquires,
But 'tis not what our youth desires.
T AUGH, my friends, and without blame
Lightly quit what lightly came ;
Rich to-moiTOw as to-day,
Spend as madly as you may !
I, with little land to stir,
Am the exacter labourer.
Ere the parting hour go by,
Quick, thy tablets, Memory !
Long I said : ' A face is gone
If too hotly mused upon ;
And our best impressions are
Those that do themselves repair.'
Many a face I so let flee.
Ah ! is faded utterly.
Ere the parting hour go by,
Quick, thy tablets, Memory!
A MEMORY-PICTURE. 27
Marguerite says : ' As last year went,
So the coming year '11 be spent ;
Some day next year, I shall be,
Entering heedless, kiss'd by thee.'
Ah, I hope ! — yet, once away.
What may chain us, who can say?
Ere the parting hour go by,
Quick, thy tablets, Memory!
Paint that lilac kerchief, bound
Her soft face, her hair around;
Tied under the archest chin
Mockery ever ambush'd in.
Let the fluttering fringes streak
All her pale, sweet-rounded cheek.
Ere the parting hour go " by,
Quick, thy tablets. Memory !
Paint that figure's pliant grace
As she toward me lean'd her face,
Half refused and half resign'd.
Murmuring: 'Art thou still unkind?'
28 A MEMORY-PICTURE.
Many a broken promise then
Was new made — to break again.
Ere the parting hour go b}^
Quick, thy tablets, Memory !
Paint those eyes, so blue, so kind,
Eager tell-tales of her mind;
Paint, with their impetuous stress
Of enquiring tenderness,
Those frank eyes, where deep doth be
An angelic gravity.
Ere the parting hour go by,
Quick, thy tablets, Memory !
What, my friends, these feeble lines
Shew, you say, my love declines?
To paint ill as I have done,
Proves forgetfulness begun?
Time's gay minions, pleased you see,
Time, your master, governs me;
Pleased, you mock the fruitless cry:
' Quick, thy tablets. Memory ! '
Ah, too true ! Time's current strong
Leaves us true to nothing long.
Yet, if little stays with man,
Ah, retain we all we can !
If the clear impression dies,
Ah, the dim remembrance prize !
Ere the parting hour go by,
Quick, thy tablets, Memory!
THE NEW SIRENS.
TN the cedar-shadow sleeping,
Where cool grass and fragrant glooms
Late at eve had lured me, creeping
From your darken'd palace-rooms;
I, who in your train at morning
StroU'd and sang with joyful mind,
Heard, in slumber, sounds of warning;
Saw the hoarse boughs labour in the wind.
Who are they, O pensive Graces,
— For I dream'd they wore your forms —
Who on shores and sea-wash'd places
Scoop the shelves and fret the storms?
Who, when ships are that way tending.
Troop across the flushing sands,
To all reefs and narrows wending.
With blown tresses, and with beckoning hands?
THE NEW SIRENS. 31
Yet I see, the howling levels
Of the deep are not your lair;
And your tragic -vaunted revels
Are less lonely than they were.
Like those Kings with treasure steering
From the jewell'd lands of dawn.
Troops, with gold and gifts, appearing,
Stream all day through your enchanted lawn.
And we too, from upland valleys,
Where some IMuse with half-curved frown
Leans her ear to your mad sallies
Which the charm'd winds never drown;
By faint music guided, ranging
The scared glens, we wander'd on,
Left our awful laurels hanging.
And came heap'd with myrtles to your throne.
From the dragon-warder d fountains
Where the springs of knowledge are.
From the watchers on the mountains,
And the bright and morning star;
32 THE NEW SIRENS.
We are exiles, we are falling,
We have lost them at your call —
O ye false ones, at your calling
Seeking ceiled chambers and a palace-hall!
Are the accents of your luring
More melodious than of yore?
Are those frail forms more enduring
Than the charms Ulysses bore ?
That we sought you with rejoicings,
Till at evening we descry
At a pause of Siren voicings
These vext branches and this howling sky? . . .
Oh, your pardon! The uncouthness
Of that primal age is gone,
And the skin of dazzling smoothness
Screens not now a heart of stone.
Love has flush'd those cruel faces;
And those slacken'd arms forgo
The delight of death-embraces,
And yon whitening bone-mounds do not grow.
THE NEW SIRENS, $3
' Ah/ you say ; ' the large appearance
Of man s labour is but vain,
And we plead as staunch adherence
Due to pleasure as to pain/
Pointing to earth's careworn creatures,
' Come,' you murmur with a sigh :
' Ah ! we own diviner features,
Loftier bearing, and a prouder eye.
* Come,' you say, * the hours were dreary ;
Life without love does but fade;
Vain it wastes, and we grew weary
In the slumbrous cedarn shade.
Round our hearts with long caresses,
With low sighings, Silence stole,
And her load of steaming tresses
Weigh'd, like Ossa, on the aery soul.
' Come/ you say, ' the soul is fainting
Till she search and learn her own,
And the wisdom of man's painting
Leaves her riddle half unknown.
VOL. I. D
34 THE NEW SIRENS.
Come/ you say, 'the brain is seeking,
While the princely heart is dead;
Yet this glean'd, when Gods were speaking,
Rarer secrets than the toiling head.
' Come/ you say, * opinion trembles.
Judgment shifts, convictions go;
Life dries up, the heart dissembles —
Only, what we feel, we know.
Hath your wisdom known emotions ?
Will it weep our burning tears?
Hath it drunk of our love-potions
Crowning moments with the weight of years.?'
I am dumb. Alas, too soon all
Man's grave reasons disappear!
Yet, I think, at God's tribunal
Some large answer you shall hear.
But for me, my thoughts are straying
Where at sunrise, through your vines.
On these lawns I saw you playing,
Hanging garlands on your odorous pines;
THE NEW SIRENS. 35
When your showering locks enwound you,
And your heavenly eyes shone through;
When the pine-boughs yielded round you,
And your brows were starr'd with dew;
And immortal forms, to meet you,
Down the statued alleys came,
And through golden horns, to greet you,
Blew such music as a God may frame.
Yes, I muse ! And if the dawning
Into daylight never grew.
If the glistering wings of morning
On the dry noon shook their dew,
If the fits of joy were longer.
Or the day were sooner done.
Or, perhaps, if hope were stronger,
No weak nursling of an earthly sun . . .
Pluck, pluck cypress, O pale maidens.
Dusk the hall with yew!
For a bound was set to meetings.
And the sombre day dragg'd on;
36 THE NEW SIRENS,
And the burst of joyful greetings,
And the joyful dawn, were gone.
For the eye grows fiU'd with gazing,
And on raptures follow calms;
And those warm locks men were praising,
Droop'd, unbraided, on your listless arms.
Storms unsmooth'd your folded valleys.
And made all your cedars frown;
Leaves were whirling in the alleys
Which your lovers wander'd down.
— Sitting cheerless in your bowers.
The hands propping the sunk head.
Do they gall you, the long hours.
And the hungry thought, that must be fed?
Is the pleasure that is tasted
Patient of a long review?
Will the fire joy hath wasted.
Mused on, warm the heart anew?
— Or, are those old thoughts returning.
Guests the dull sense never knew.
Stars, set deep, yet inly burning.
Germs, your untrimm'd passion overgrew?
THE NEW SIRENS. 37
Once, like us, you took your station
Watchers for a purer fire;
But you droop'd in expectation,
And you wearied in desire.
When the first rose flush was steeping
All the frore peak's awful crown.
Shepherds say, they found you sleeping
In some windless valley, farther down.
Then you wept, and slowly raising
Your dozed eyelids, sought again,
Half in doubt, they say, and gazing
Sadly back, the seats of men —
Snatch'd a turbid inspiration
From some transient earthly sun,
And proclaim'd your vain ovation
For those mimic raptures you had won ! . . .
With a sad, majestic motion,
With a stately, slow surprise,
From their earthward-bound devotion
Lifting up your languid eyes —
18 THE NEW SIRENS.
Would you freeze my louder boldness,
Dumbly smiling as you go ?
One faint frown of distant coldness
Flitting fast across each marble brow?
Do I brighten at your sorrow,
O sweet Pleaders ? — doth my lot
Find assurance in to-morrow
Of one joy, which you have not?
O, speak once, and shame my sadness !
Let this sobbing, Phrygian strain,
Mock'd and baffled by your gladness,
Mar the music of your feasts in vain !
* H5 * * *
Scent, and song, and light, and flowers !
Gust on gust, the harsh winds blow —
Come, bind up those ringlet showers !
Roses for that dreaming brow 1
Come, once more that ancient lightness,
Glancing feet, and eager eyes !
Let your broad lamps flash the brightness
Which the sorrow-stricken day denies!
THE NEW SIRENS 39
Through black depths of serried shadows,
Up cold aisles of buried glade;
In the mist of river-meadows
Where the looming deer are laid;
From your dazzled windows streaming,
From your humming festal room,
Deep and far, a broken gleaming
Reels and shivers on the ruffled gloom.
Where I stand, the grass is glowing; ,
Doubtless you are passing fair!
But I hear the north wind blowing,
And I feel the cold night-air.
Can I look on your sweet faces.
And your proud heads backward thrown,
From this dusk of leaf-strewn places
With the dumb woods and the night alone?
But indeed, this flux of guesses —
Mad delight, and frozen calms —
Mirth to-day and vine-bound tresses,
And to-morrow — folded palms;
40 THE NEW SIRENS.
Is this all? this balanced measure?
Could life run no happier way?
Joyous, at the height of pleasure,
Passive, at the nadir of dismay?
But indeed, this proud possession.
This far-reaching, magic chain,
Linking in a mad succession
Fits of joy and fits of pain —
Have you seen it at the closing?
Have you track'd its clouded ways?
Can your eyes, while fools are dozing.
Drop, with mine, adown Hfe's latter days?
When a dreary light is wading
Through this waste of sunless greens.
When the flashing lights are fading
On the peerless cheek of queens.
When the mean shall no more sorrow.
And the proudest no more smile;
While the dawning of the morrow
Widens slowly westward all that while?
THE NEW SIRENS. 41
Then, when change itself is over,
When the slow tide sets one way,
Shall you find the radiant lover,
Even by moments, of to-day?
The eye wanders, faith is faiHng —
O, loose hands, and let it be !
Proudly, like a king bewailing,
O, let fall one tear, and set us free !
All true speech and large avowal
Which the jealous soul concedes,
All man's heart which brooks bestowal.
All frank faith which passion breeds —
These we had, and we gave truly;
Doubt not, what we had, we gave !
False we were not, nor unruly;
Lodgers in the forest and the cave.
Long we wander'd with you, feeding
Our rapt souls on your replies.
In a wistful silence reading
All the meaning of your eyes
42 THE NEW SIRENS.
By moss-border'd statues sitting,
By well-heads, in summer days.
But we turn, our eyes are flitting—
See, the white east, and the morning-rays!
And you too, O worshipp'd Graces,
Sylvan Gods of this fair shade !
Is there doubt on divine faces ?
Are the blessed Gods dismay'd?
Can men worship the wan features,
The sunk eyes, the wailing tone,
Of unsphered, discrowned creatures,
Souls as little godlike as their own?
Come, loose hands ! The winged fleetness
Of immortal feet is gone ;
And your scents have shed their sweetness.
And your flowers are overblown.
And your jewell'd gauds surrender
Half their glories to the day;
Freely did they flash their splendour,
Freely gave it — but it dies away.
THE NEW SIRENS. 43
In the pines the thrush is waking —
Lo, yon orient hill in flames !
Scores of true love knots are breaking
At divorce which it proclaims.
When the lamps are paled at morning,
Heart quits heart and hand quits hand.
Cold in that unlovely dawning,
Loveless, rayless, joyless you shall stand !
Pluck no more red roses, maidens.
Leave the lilies in their dew —
Pluck, pluck cypress, O pale maidens.
Dusk, oh, dusk the hall with yew !
— Shall I seek, that I may scorn her,
Her I loved at eventide ?
Shall I ask, what faded mourner
Stands, at daybreak, weeping by my side?
Pluck, pluck cypress, O pale maidens !
Dusk the hall with yew !
• • •
A S the kindling glances,
Queen-like and clear,
Which the bright moon lances
From her tranquil sphere
At the sleepless waters
Of a lonely mere,
On the wild whirling waves, mournfully, mournfully,
Shiver and die.
As the tears of sorrow
Mothers have shed —
Prayers that to-morrow
Shall in vain be sped
When the flower they flow for
Lies frozen and dead —
Fall on the throbbing brow, fall on the burning breast.
Bringing no rest.
THE VOICE, 45
Like bright waves that fall
With a lifelike motion
On the lifeless margin of the sparkling Ocean;
A wild rose climbing up a mouldering wall —
A gush of sunbeams through a ruin'd hall —
Strains of glad music at a funeral —
So sad, and with so wild a start
To this deep-sober'd heart,
So anxiously and painfully,
So drearily and doubtfully,
And oh, with such intolerable change
Of thought, such contrast strange,
O unforgotten voice, thy whispers come,
Like wanderers from the world's extremity,
Unto their ancient home !
In vain, all, all in vain.
They beat upon mine ear again,
Those melancholy tones so sweet and stilL
Those lute-like tones which in the bygone year
Did steal into mine ear —
Blew such a thrilling summons to my will.
Yet could not shake it;
Made my tost heart its very life-blood spill,
Yet could not break it.
"X 1 THEN I shall be divorced, some ten years hence,
From this poor present self which I am now ;
When youth has done its tedious vain expense
Of passions that for ever ebb and flow;
Shall I not joy youth's heats are left behind,
And breathe more happy in an even clime? —
Ah no, for then I shall begin to find
A thousand virtues in this hated time !
Then I shall wish its agitations back,
And all its thwarting currents of desire;
Then I shall praise the heat which then I lack,
And call this hurrying fever, generous fire;
And sigh that one thing only has been lent
To youth and age in common — discontent.
THE WORLD'S TRIUMPHS.
OO far as I conceive the world's rebuke
To him address' d who would recast her new,
Not from herself her fame of strength she took,
But from their weakness who would work her rue.
' Behold,' she cries, ' so many rages lull'd,
So many fiery spirits quite cool'd down;
Look how so many valours, long undull'd,
After short commerce with me, fear my frown !
Thou too, when thou against my crimes wouldst cry,
Let thy foreboded homage check thy tongue ! ' —
The world speaks well ; yet might her foe reply :
' Are wills so weak ? — then let not mine wait long !
Hast thou so rare a poison ? — let me be
Keener to slay thee, lest thou poison me!'
T^HOU, who dost dwell alone —
Thou, who dost know thine own-
Thou, to whom all are known
From the cradle to the grave —
Save, oh! save.
From the world's temptations,
From that fierce anguish
Wherein we languish,
From that torpor deep
Wherein we lie asleep,
Heavy as death, cold as the grave.
Save, oh ! save.
When the soul, growing clearer,
Sees God no nearer ;
When the soul, mounting higher,
To God comes no nigher ;
But the arch-fiend Pride
Mounts at her side,
Foiling her high emprise,
Sealing her eagle eyes,
And, when she fain would soar,
Makes idols to adore.
Changing the pure emotion
Of her high devotion
To a skin-deep sense
Of her own eloquence;
Strong to deceive, strong to enslave — -
Save, oh ! save.
From the ingrain'd fashion
Of this earthly nature
That mars thy creature ;
From grief that is but passion.
From mirth that is but feigning,
From tears that bring no healing,
From wdld and weak complaining.
Thine old strength revealing,
Save, oh ! save.
From doubt, where all is double;
Where wise men are not strong,
Where comfort turns to trouble.
Where just men suffer wrong;
VOL. I. E
Where sorrow treads on joy,
Where sweet things soonest cloy,
Where faiths are built on dust,
Where love is half mistrust,
Hungry, and barren, and sharp as the sea-
Oh ! set us free.
O let the false dream fly
Where our sick souls do lie
Tossing continually !
O where thy voice doth come
Let all doubts be dumb.
Let all words be mild.
All strifes be reconciled.
All pains beguiled !
Light bring no blindness.
Love no unkindness,
Knowledge no ruin,
Fear no undoing !
From the cradle to the grave,
Save, oh! save.
T 17 HAT mortal, when he saw,
Life's voyage done, his heavenly Friend,
Could ever yet dare tell him fearlessly :
' I have kept uninfringed my nature's law ;
The inly-written chart thou gavest me
To guide me, I have steer'd by to the end ' ?
Ah ! let us make no claim,
On Hfe's incognisable sea,
To too exact a steering of our way ;
Let us not fret and fear to miss our aim.
If some fair coast has lured us to make stay,
Or some friend hail'd us to keep company.
Ay ! we would each fain drive
At random, and not steer by rule.
Weakness ! and worse, weakness bestow'd in vain !
Winds from our side the unsuiting consort rive,
We rush by coasts where we had lief remain ;
Man cannot, though he would, live chance's fool.
52 HUMAN LIFE.
No ! as the foaming swath
Of torn-up water, on the main,
Falls heavily away with long-drawn roar
On either side the black deep-furrow'd path
Cut by an onward-labouring vessel's prore,
And never touches the ship-side again;
Even so we leave behind,
As, chartered by some unknown Powers,
We stem across the sea of life by night,
The joys which were not for our use designed ;-
The friends to whom we had no natural right,
The homes that were not destined to be ours.
TO A GIPSY CHILD BY THE
DOUGLAS, ISLE OF MAN.
"1 1 THO taught this pleading to unpractised eyes ?
Who hid such import in an infant's gloom?
Who lent thee, child, this meditative guise?
Who mass'd, round that slight brow, these clouds of
Lo ! sails that gleam a moment and are gone ;
The swinging waters, and the cluster'd pier.
Not idly Earth and Ocean labour on.
Nor idly do these sea-birds hover near.
But thou, whom superfluity of joy
Wafts not from thine own thoughts, nor longings vain,
Nor weariness, the full-fed soul's annoy —
Remaining in thy hunger and thy pain;
54 TO A GIPSY CHILD
Thou, drugging pain by patience; half averse
From thine own mother's breast, that knows not thee ;
With eyes which sought thine eyes thou didst con-
And that soul-searching vision fell on me.
Glooms that go deep as thine I have not known :
Moods of fantastic sadness, nothing worth.
Thy sorrow and thy calmness are thine own :
Glooms that enhance and glorify this earth.
What mood wears like complexion to thy woe ?
His, who in mountain glens, at noon of day,
Sits rapt, and hears the battle break below?
— Ah ! thine was not the shelter, but the fray.
Some exile's, mindful how^ the past was glad?
Some angel's, in an alien planet born?
— No exile's dream was ever half so sad.
Nor any angel's sorrow so forlorn.
Is the calm thine of stoic souls, who weigh
Life well, and find it wanting, nor deplore ;
But in disdainful silence turn away.
Stand mute, self-centred, stern, and dream no more?
BF THE SEA-SHORE. 55
Or do I wait, to hear some grey-hair'd king
Unravel all his many-colour'd lore;
Whose mind hath known all arts of governing,
Mused much, loved life a little, loathed it more ?
Down the pale cheek long lines of shadow slope,
Which years, and curious thought, and suffering give.
— Thou hast foreknown the vanity of hope,
Foreseen thy harvest, yet proceed'st to live.
meek anticipant of that sure pain
Whose sureness grey-hair'd scholars hardly learn !
What wonder shall time breed, to swell thy strain.?
What heavens, what earth, what suns shalt thou
Ere the long night, whose stillness brooks no star,
Match that funereal aspect with her pall,
1 think, thou wilt have fathom'd life too far.
Have known too much or else foro^otten all.
The Guide of our dark steps a triple veil
Betwixt our senses and our sorrow keeps ;
Hath sown with cloudless passages the tale
Of grief, and eased us with a thousand sleeps.
66 TQ A GIPSY CHILD.
Ah ! not the nectarous poppy lovers use,
Not daily labour's dull, Lethaean spring,
Oblivion in lost angels can infuse
Of the soil'd glory, and the trailing wing;
And though thou glean, what strenuous gleaners may.
In the throng'd fields where winning comes by
And though the just sun gild, as mortals pray,
Some reaches of thy storm-vext stream of life;
Though that blank sunshine blind thee ; though the
That sever'd the world's march and thine, be gone;
Though ease dulls grace, and Wisdom be too proud
To halve a lodging that was all her own —
Once, ere thy day go down, thou shalt discern,
Oh once, ere night, in thy success, thy chain !
Ere the long evening close, thou shalt return,
And wear this majesty of grief again.
T OY comes and goes, hope ebbs and flows
Like the wave ;
Change doth unknit the tranquil strength of men.
Love lends Hfe a little grace,
A few sad smiles ; and then,
Both are laid in one cold place,
In the grave.
Dreams dawn and fly, friends smile and die
Like spring flowers;
Our vaunted life is one long funeral.
Men dig graves with bitter tears
For their dead hopes; and all,
Mazed with doubts and sick with fears.
Count the hours.
We count the hours ! These dreams of ours,
False and hollow,
Do we go hence and find they are not dead?
Joys we dimly apprehend,
Faces that smiled and fled,
Hopes born here, and born to end.
Shall we follow?
IN UTRUMQUE PARATUS.
TF, in the silent mind of One all-pure,
At first imagined lay
The sacred world; and by procession sure
From those still deeps, in form and colour drest,
Seasons alternating, and night and day,
The long-mused thought to north, south, east, and west,
Took then its all-seen way;
O waking on a world which thus-wise springs !
Whether it needs thee count
Betwixt thy waking and the birth of things
Ages or hours — O waking on life's stream !
By lonely pureness, to the all-pure fount
(Only by this thou canst), the colour'd dream
Of life remount.
Thin, thin the pleasant human noises grow,
And faint the city gleams;
Rare the lone pastoral huts — marvel not thou !
The solemn peaks but to the stars are known,
But to the stars, and the cold lunar beams;
Alone the sun arises, and alone
Spring the great streams.
IN UTRUMQUE PARATUS. 59
But, if the wild unfather'd mass no birth
In divine seats hath known ;
In the blank, echoing solitude if Earth,
Rocking her obscure body to and fro,
Ceases not from all time to heave and groan,
Unfruitful oft, and at her happiest throe
Forms, what she forms, alone;
O seeming sole to awake, thy sun-bathed head
Piercing the solemn cloud
Round thy still dreaming brother-world outspread !
O man, whom Earth, thy long-vext mother, bare
Not without joy — so radiant, so endow'd
(Such happy issue crown'd her painful care) —
Be not too proud !
O when most self-exalted most alone,
Chief dreamer, own thy dream !
Thy brother-world stirs at thy feet unknown;
Who hath a monarch's hath no brother's part —
Yet doth thine inmost soul with yearning teem.
Oh, what a spasm shakes the dreamer's heart!
' /, too, but seem!
THE WORLD AND THE
' 1 1 rHY, when the world's great mind
Hath finally inclined,
Why/ you say, Critias, 'be debating still?
Why, with these mournful rhymes
Learn'd in more languid climes,
Blame our activity
Who, with such passionate will,
Are what we mean to be?'
Critias, long since, I know
(For Fate decreed it so),
Long since the world hath set its heart to live ;
Long since, with credulous zeal
It turns life's mighty wheel.
Still doth for labourers send
Who still their labour give.
And still expects an end.
THE WORLD AND THE QUIETIST, 6i
Yet, as the wheel flies round,
With no ungrateful sound
Do adverse voices fall on the world's ear.
Deafen'd by his own stir
The rugged labourer
Caught not till then a sense
So glowing and so near
Of his omnipotence.
So, when the feast grew loud
In Susa's palace proud,
A white-robed slave stole to the Great King's side.
He spoke — the Great King heard;
Felt the slow-rolling word
Swell his attentive soul ;
Breathed deeply as it died,
And drain' d his mighty bowl.
THE SECOND BEST.
A /r ODERATE tasks and moderate leisure,
Quiet living, strict-kept measure
Both in suffering and in pleasure —
'Tis for this thy nature yearns.
But so many books thou readest,
But so many schemes thou breedest,
But so many wishes feedest,
That thy poor head almost turns.
And (the world's so madly jangled,
Human things so fast entangled)
Nature's wish must now be strangled
For that best which she discerns.
So it viust be ! yet, while leading
A strain'd life, while overfeeding,
Like the rest, his wit with reading,
No small profit that man earns,
THE SECOND BEST. 63
Who through all he meets can steer him,
Can reject what cannot clear him,
Cling to what can truly cheer him;
Who each day more surely learns
That an impulse, from the distance
Of his deepest, best existence,
To the words, 'Hope, Light, Persistence,'
Strongly sets and truly burns.
A /TIST clogs the sunshine.
Smoky dwarf houses
Hem me round everywhere ;
A vague dejection
Weighs down my soul.
Yet, while I languish,
Prospects unroll themselves,
And countless beings
Pass countless moods.
Far hence, in Asia,
On the smooth convent-roofs
On the gold terraces
Of holy Lassa,
Bright shines the sun.
CONSOLA TION. 6
Grey time-worn marbles
Hold the pure Muses;
In their cool gallery,
By yellow Tiber,
They still look fair.
Strange unloved uproar*
Shrills round their portal;
Yet not on Helicon
Kept they more cloudless
Their noble calm.
Through sun-proof alleys
In a lone, sand-hemm'd
City of Africa,
A blind, led beggar,
Age-bow'd, asks alms.
No bolder robber
Erst abode ambush'd
Deep in the sandy waste;
No clearer eyesight
Spied prey afar.
* Written during the siege of Rome by the French, 1S49.
VOL. I. F
Sear'd his keen eyeballs;
Spent is the spoil he won.
For him the present
Holds only pain.
Two young, fair lovers,
Where the warm June-wind,
Fresh from the summer fields,
Plays fondly round them,
Stand, tranced in joy.
With sweet, join d voices,
And with eyes brimming :
'Ah,' they cry, 'Destiny,
Prolong the present!
Time, stand still here!'
The prompt stern Goddess
Shakes her head, frowning;
Time gives his hour-glass
Its due reversal;
Their hour is gone.
CONSOLA TION. 67
With weak indulgence
Did the just Goddess
Lengthen their happiness,
She lengthen'd also
The hour, whose happy
I would eternalise.
Ten thousand mourners
Well pleased see end.
The bleak, stern hour,
Whose severe moments
I would annihilate,
Is pass'd by others
In warmth, light, joy.
Time, so complain'd of.
Who to no one man
Brings round to all men
Some undimm'd hours.
nrO die he given us, or attain!
Fierce work it were, to do again.
So pilgrims, bound for Mecca, pray'd
At burning noon ; so warriors said,
Scarf'd with the cross, who watch'd the miles
Of dust that wreathed their struggling files
Down Lydian mountains ; so, when snows
Round Alpine summits, eddying, rose.
The Goth, bound Rome-wards ; so the Hun,
Crouch'd on his saddle, while the sun
Went lurid down o'er flooded plains
Through which the groaning Danube strains
To the drear Euxine; — so pray all,
Whom labours, self-ordain'd, enthrall;
Because they to themselves propose
On this side the all-common close
A goal which, gain'd, may give repose.
So pray they; and to stand again
Where they stood once, to them were pain;
RESIGNA TION. 69
Pain to thread back and to renew
Past straits, and currents long steer'd through.
But milder natures, and more free —
Whom an unblamed serenity-
Hath freed from passions, and the state
Of struggle these necessitate;
Whom schooling of the stubborn mind
Hath made, or birth hath found, resigned —
These mourn not, that their goings pay
Obedience to the passing day.
These claim not every laughing Hour
For handmaid to their striding power;
Each in her turn, with torch uprear'd.
To await their march; and when appear'd.
Through the cold gloom, with measured race,
To usher for a destined space
(Her own sweet errands all forgone)
The too imperious traveller on.
These, Fausta, ask not this; nor thou.
Time's chafing prisoner, ask it now.
We left, just ten years since, you say.
That wayside inn we left to-day.*
70 RESIGNA TION.
Our jovial host, as forth we fare,
Shouts greeting from his easy chair.
High on a bank our leader stands,
Reviews and ranks his motley bands,
Makes clear our goal to every eye —
The valley's western boundary.
A gate swings to ! our tide hath flow'd
Already from the silent road.
The valley-pastures, one by one,
Are threaded, quiet in the sun;
And now beyond the rude stone bridge
Slopes gracious up the western ridge.
Its woody border, and the last
Of its dark upland farms is past;
Cool farms, with open-lying stores,
Under their burnish'd sycamores —
All past! and through the trees we glide
Emerging on the green hill-side.
There chmbing hangs, a far-seen sign,
Our wavering, many-colour'd line;
There winds, upstreaming slowly still
Over the summit of the hill.
And now, in front, behold outspread
Those upper regions we must tread !
Mild hollows, and clear heathy swells,
The cheerful silence of the fells.
Some two hours' march, with serious air,
Through the deep noontide heats we fare ;
The red-grouse, springing at our sound,
Skims, now and then, the shining ground;
No hfe, save his and ours, intrudes
Upon these breathless solitudes.
O joy ! again the farms appear.
Cool shade is there, and rustic cheer;
There springs the brook will guide us down,
Bright comrade, to the noisy town.
Lingering, we follow down ; we gain
The town, the highway, and the plain.
And many a mile of dusty way,
Parch'd and road-worn, we m^ade that day;
But, Fausta, I remember well,
That as the balmy darkness fell
We bathed our hands with speechless glee,
That night, in the wide-glimmering sea.
Once more we tread this self-same road,
Fausta, which ten years since we trod ;
Alone we tread it, you and I,
Ghosts of that boisterous company.
Here, where the brook shines, near its head,
In its clear, shallow, turf- fringed bed;
Here, whence the eye first sees, far down,
Capp'd with faint smoke, the noisy town;
Here sit we, and again unroll.
Though slowly, the familiar whole.
The solemn wastes of heathy hill
Sleep in the July sunshine still ;
The self-same shadows now, as then.
Play through this grassy upland glen;
The loose dark stones on the green way
Lie strewn, it seems, where then they lay;
On this mild bank above the stream,
(You crush them!) the blue gentians gleam.
Still this wild brook, the rushes cool.
The sailing foam, the shining pool !
These are not changed; and we, you say.
Are scarce more changed, in truth, than they.
The gipsies, whom we met below,
They, too, have long roam'd to and fro ;
RESIGNA TION. 73
They ramble, leaving, where they pass,
Their fragments on the cumber'd grass.
And often to some kindly place
Chance guides the migratory race,
Where, though long wanderings intervene,
They recognise a former scene.
The dingy tents are pitch'd; the fires
Give to the wind their wavering spires;
In dark knots crouch round the wild flame
Their children, as when first they came;
They see their shackled beasts again
Move, browsing, up the grey-wall'd lane.
Signs are not wanting, which might raise
The ghost in them of former days —
Signs are not wanting, if they would ;
Suggestions to disquietude.
For them., for all, time's busy touch.
While it mends little, troubles much.
Their joints grow stiffer — but the year
Runs his old round of dubious cheer;
Chilly they grow — yet winds in March,
Still, sharp as ever, freeze and parch ;
They must live still— and yet, God knows.
Crowded and keen the country grows ;
74 RESIGNA TION.
It seems as if, in their decay,
The law grew stronger every day.
So might they reason, so compare,
Fausta, times past with times that are ;
But no ! — they rubb'd through yesterday
In their hereditary way,
And they will rub through, if they can,
To-morrow on the self-same plan.
Till death arrive to supersede,
For them, vicissitude and need.
The poet, to whose mighty heart
Heaven doth a quicker pulse impart,
Subdues that energy to scan
Not his own course, but that of man.
Though he move mountains, though his day
Be pass'd on the proud heights of sway,
Though he hath loosed a thousand chains,
Though he hath borne immortal pains.
Action and suflferino: thoug^h he know —
He hath not lived, if he lives so.
He sees, in some great-historied land,
A ruler of the people stand.
RESIGNA TION. 75
Sees his strong thought in fiery flood
Roll through the heaving multitude,
Exults— yet for no moment's space
Envies the all-regarded place.
Beautiful eyes meet his — and he
Bears to admire uncravingly ;
They pass— he, mingled with the crowd,
Is in their far-off triumphs proud.
From some high station he looks down.
At sunset, on a populous town,
Surveys each happy group which fleets,
Toil ended, through the shining streets.
Each with some errand of its own —
And does not say : / a??i alone.
He sees the gentle stir of birth
When morning purifies the earth ;
He leans upon a gate, and sees
The pastures, and the quiet trees.
Low, woody hill, with gracious bound,
Folds the still valley almost round;
The cuckoo, loud on some high lawn,
Is answer'd from the depth of dawn;
In the hedge straggling to the stream.
Pale, dew-drench' d, half-shut roses gleam ;
But, where the farther side slopes down,
He sees the drowsy new-waked clown
In his white quaint-embroider'd frock
Make, whistling, toward his mist-wreathed flock-
Slowly, behind his heavy tread.
The wet, flower' d grass heaves up its head.
Lean'd on his gate, he gazes — tears
Are in his eyes, and in his ears
The murmur of a thousand years.
Before him he sees life unroll,
A placid and continuous whole —
That general life, which does not cease,
Whose secret is not joy, but peace ;
That Hfe, whose dumb wish is not miss'd
If birth proceeds, if things subsist;
The life of plants, and stones, and rain,
The life he craves — if not in vain
Fate gave, what chance shall not control.
His sad lucidity of soul.
You listen — but that wandering smile,
Fausta, betrays you cold the while !
Your eyes pursue the bells of foam
Wash'd, edd}ing, from this bank, their home.
Those gipsies, so your thoughts I scan,
Are less, the poet more, than man ;
They feel not, though they move and see.
Deeply the poet feels ; but he
Breathes, ivhen he will, immortal air,
Where Orpheus and where Homer are.
In the days life, whose iron round
Hems us all in, he is not hound ;
He escapes thence, hut we abide.
Not deep the poet sees, hut wide.
The world in which we live and move
Outlasts aversion, outlasts love,
Oudasts each effort, interest, hope.
Remorse, grief, joy; — and were the scope
Of these affections wider made,
Man still would see, and see dismay'd,
Beyond his passion's widest range,
Far regions of eternal change.
Nay, and since death, which wipes out man,
Finds him with many an unsolved plan.
With much unknown, and much untried,
Wonder not dead, and thirst not dried,
Still gazing on the ever full
Eternal mundane spectacle —
This world in which we draw our breath,
In some sense, Fausta, outlasts death.
Blame thou not, therefore, him who dares
Judge vain beforehand human cares;
Whose natural insight can discern
What through experience others learn;
Who needs not love and power, to know
Love transient, power an unreal show;
Who treads at ease life's uncheer'd ways —
Him blame not, Fausta, rather praise.
Rather thyself for some aim pray
Nobler than this, to fill the day.
Rather that heart, which burns in thee,
Ask, not to amuse, but to set free.
Be passionate hopes not ill resign'd
For quiet, and a fearless mind.
And though fate grudge to thee and me
The poet's rapt security,
Yet they, believe me, who await
No gifts from chance, have conquer'd fate.
They, winning room to see and hear,
And to men's business not too near,
RESIGNA TION. 79
Through clouds of individual strife
Draw homeward to the general life.
Like leaves by suns not yet uncurl'd ;
To the wise, foolish; to the world,
Weak; — yet not weak, I might reply,
Not foolish, Fausta, in His eye,
To whom each moment in its race,
Crowd as we will its neutral space.
Is but a quiet watershed
Whence, equally, the seas of life and death are fed.
Enough, we live !— and if a life.
With large results so litde rife,
Though bearable, seem hardly worth
This pomp of worlds, this pain of birth ;
Yet, Fausta, the mute turf we tread,
The solemn hills around us spread,
This stream which falls incessantly.
The strange-scrawl' d rocks, the lonely sky —
If I might lend their hfe a voice.
Seem to bear rather than rejoice.
And even could the intemperate prayer
Man iterates, while these forbear,
8o RESIGNA TION,
For movement, for an ampler sphere,
Pierce Fate's impenetrable ear;
Not milder is the general lot
Because our spirits have forgot,
In action's dizzying eddy whirl'd,
The something that infects the world.
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM.^
A ND the first grey of morning fill'd the east,
And the fog rose out of the Oxus stream.
But all the Tartar camp along the stream
Was hush'd, and still the men were plunged in sleep ;
Sohrab alone, he slept not; all night long
He had lain wakeful, tossing on his bed;
But when the grey dawn stole into his tent.
He rose, and -clad himself, and girt his sword,
And took his horseman's cloak, and left his tent,
And went abroad into the cold wet fog.
Through the dim camp to Peran -Wisa's tent.
Through the black Tartar tents he pass'd, which
Clustering like bee-hives on the low flat strand
Of Oxus, where the summer-floods overflow
When the sun melts the snows in high Pamere;
84 SOHRAB AND RUSTUM.
Through the black tents he pass'd, o'er that low strand.
And to a hillock came, a little back
From the stream's brink, the spot where first a boat,
Crossing the stream in summer, scrapes the land.
The men of former times had crown'd the top
With a clay fort; but that was fall'n, and now
The Tartars built there Peran-Wisa's tent,
A dome of laths, and o'er it felts were spread.
And Sohrab came there, and went in, and stood
Upon the thick piled carpets in the tent.
And found the old man sleeping on his bed
Of rugs and felts, and near him lay his arms.
And Peran-Wisa heard him, though the step
Was dull'd; for he slept light, an old man's sleep;
And he rose quickly on one arm, and said: —
* Who art thou ? for it is not yet clear dawn.
Speak! is there news, or any night alarm.?'
But Sohrab came to the bedside, and said: —
Thou know'st me, Peran-Wisa! it is I.
The sun is not yet risen, and the foe
Sleep; but I sleep not; all night long I lie
Tossing and wakeful, and I come to thee.
For so did King Afrasiab bid me seek
Thy counsel, and to heed thee as thy son,
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM. 85
In Samarcand, before the army march'd;
And I will tell thee what my heart desires.
Thou know'st if, since from Ader-baijan first
I came among the Tartars and bore arms,
I have still served Afrasiab well, and shown,
At my boy's years, the courage of a man.
This too thou know'st, that while I still bear on
The conquering Tartar ensigns through the world,
And beat the Persians back on every field,
I seek one man, one man, and one alone —
Rustum, my father; who I hoped should greet,
Should one day greet, upon some well-fought field.
His not unworthy, not inglorious son.
So I long hoped, but him I never find.
Come then, hear now, and grant me what I ask.
Let the two armies rest to-day ; but I
Will challenge forth the bravest Persian lords
To meet me, man to man ; if I prevail,
Rustum will surely hear it ; if I fall —
Old man, the dead need no one, claim no kin.
Dim is the rumour of a common fight,
Where host meets host, and many names are sunk:
But of a single combat fame speaks clear.'
He spoke; and Peran-Wisa took the hand
86 SOHRAB AND RUSTUM.
Of the young man in his, and sigh'd, and said : —
' O Sohrab, an unquiet heart is thine !
Canst thou not rest among the Tartar chiefs,
And share the battle's common chance with us
Who love thee, but must press for ever first.
In single fight incurring single risk,
To find a father thou hast never seen ?
That were far best, my son^ to stay with us
Unmurmuring; in our tents, while it is war.
And when 'tis truce, then in Afrasiab's towns.
But, if this one desire indeed rules all.
To seek out Rustum — seek him not through fight!
Seek him in peace, and carry to his arms,
O Sohrab, carry an unwounded son!
But far hence seek him, for he is not here.
For now it is not as when I was young,
When Rustum was in front of every fray:
But now he keeps apart, and sits at home.
In Seistan, with Zal, his father old.
Whether that his own mighty strength at last
Feels the abhorr'd approaches of old age;
Or in some quarrel with the Persian King.
There go! — Thou wilt not.? Yet my heart forebodes
Dansrer or death awaits thee on this field.
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM. 87
Fain would I know thee safe and well, though lost
To us; fain therefore send thee hence, in peace
To seek thy father, not seek single fights
In vain ; — but who can keep the lion's cub
From ravening, and who govern Rustum's son?
Go, I will grant thee what thy heart desires.'
So said he, and dropp'd Sohrab's hand, and left
His bed, and the warm rugs whereon he lay ;
And o'er his chilly limbs his woollen coat
He pass'd, and tied his sandals on his feet,
And threw a white cloak round him, and he took
In his right hand a ruler's staff, no sword ;
And on his head he set his sheep-skin cap.
Black, glossy, cmTd, the fleece of Kara-Kul;
And raised the curtain of his tent, and call'd
His herald to his side, and went abroad.
The sun by this had risen, and clear'd the fog
From the broad Oxus and the glittering sands.
And from their tents the Tartar horsemen filed
Into the open plain; so Haman bade —
Haman, who next to Peran-Wisa ruled
The host, and still was in his lusty prime.
From their black tents, long files of horse, they
stream' d ;
88 SOHRAB AND RUSTUM.
As when, some grey November morn, the files,
In marching order spread, of long-neck'd cranes
Stream over Casbin, and the southern slopes
Of Elburz, from the Aralian estuaries,
Or some frore Caspian reed-bed, southward bound
For the warm Persian sea-board — so they stream'd.
The Tartars of the Oxus, the King's guard,
First, with black sheep -skin caps and with long spears;
Large men, large steeds ; who from Bokhara come
And Khiva, and ferment the milk of mares.
Next, the more temperate Toorkmuns of the south,
The Tukas, and the lances of Salore,
And those from Attruck and the Caspian sands ;
Light men, and on light steeds, who only drink
The acrid milk of camels, and their wells.
And then a swarm of wandering horse, who came
From far, and a more doubtful service own'd;
The Tartars of Ferghana, from the banks
Of the Jaxartes, men with scanty beards
And close-set skull-caps; and those wilder hordes
Who roam o'er Kipchak and the northern waste,
Kalmucks and unkempt Kuzzaks, tribes who stray
Nearest the Pole, and wandering Kirghizzes,
Who come on shaggy ponies from Pamere
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM, 89
These all filed out from camp into the plain.
And on the other side the Persians form'd;
First a light cloud of horse, Tartars they seem'd,
The Ilyats of Khorassan; and behind,
The royal troops of Persia, horse and foot,
Marshall'd battahons bright in burnish'd steel.
But Peran-Wisa with his herald came
Threading the Tartar squadrons to the front.
And with his staff kept back the foremost ranks.
And when Ferood, who led the Persians, saw
That Peran-Wisa kept the Tartars back.
He took his spear, and to the front he came,
And check'd his ranks, and fix'd them where they
And the old Tartar came upon the sand
Betwixt the silent hosts, and spake, and said : —
'Ferood, and ye, Persians and Tartars, hear!
Let there be truce between the hosts to-day.
But choose a champion from the Persian lords
To fight our champion Sohrab, man to man.'
As, in the country, on a morn in June,
When the dew glistens on the pearled ears,
A shiver runs through the deep corn for joy —
So, when they heard what Peran-Wisa said,
90 SOHRAB AND RVSTUM,
A thrill through all the Tartar squadrons ran
Of pride and hope for Sohrab, whom they loved.
But as a troop of pedlars, from Cabool,
Cross underneath the Indian Caucasus,
That vast sky-neighbouring mountain of milk snow;
Winding so high, that, as they mount, they pass
Long flocks of travelling birds dead on the snow,
Choked by the air, and scarce can they themselves
Slake their parch'd throats with sugar'd mulberries —
In single file they move, and stop their breath.
For fear they should dislodge the o'erhanging
So the pale Persians held their breath with fear.
And to Ferood his brother chiefs came up
To counsel ; Gudurz and Zoarrah came,
And Feraburz, who ruled the Persian host
Second, and was the uncle of the King;
These came and counsell'd, and then Gudurz
said : —
'Ferood, shame bids us take their challenge up.
Yet champion have we none to match this youth.
He has the wild stag's foot, the lion's heart.
But Rustum came last night; aloof he sits
And sullen, and has pitch'd his tents apart.
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM. 91
Him will I seek, and carry to his ear
The Tartar challenge, and this young man's name;
Haply he will forget his wrath, and fight.
Stand forth the while, and take their challenge up.'
So spake he; and Ferood stood forth and
cried : —
' Old man, be it agreed as thou hast said !
Let Sohrab arm, and we will find a man.'
He spake; and Peran-Wisa turn'd, and strode
Back through the opening squadrons to his tent.
But through the anxious Persians Gudurz ran.
And cross'd the camp which lay behind, and
Out on the sands beyond it, Rustum's tents.
Of scarlet cloth they were, and glittering gay,
Just pitch'd; the high pavilion in the midst
Was Rustum's, and his men lay camp'd around.
And Gudurz enter'd Rustum's tent, and found
Rustum ; his morning meal was done, but still
The table stood before him, charged with food —
A side of roasted sheep, and cakes of bread.
And dark green melons ; and there Rustum sate
Listless, and held a falcon on his wrist,
And play'd with it; but Gudurz came and stood
92 SOHRAB AND RVSTUM.
Before him; and he look'd, and saw him stand;
And with a cry sprang up, and dropp'd the bird,
And greeted Gudurz with both hands, and said : —
'Welcome! these eyes could see no better sight.
What news? but sit down first, and eat and drink.'
But Gudurz stood in the tent-door, and said: —
' Not now ! a time will come to eat and drink,
But not to-day; to-day has other needs.
The armies are drawn out, and stand at gaze ;
For from the Tartars is a challenge brought
To pick a champion from the Persian lords
To fight their champion — and thou know'st his
Sohrab men call him, but his birth is hid.
O Rustum, like thy might is this young man's !
He has the wild stag's foot, the lion's heart;
And he is young, and Iran's chiefs are old,
Or else too weak; and all eyes turn to thee.
Come down and help us, Rustum, or we lose !
He spoke ; but Rustum answer'd with a smile : —
' Go to ! if Iran's chiefs are old, then I
Am older; if the young are weak, the King
Errs strangely ; for the King, for Kai Khosroo,
Himself is young, and honours younger men,
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM. 93
And lets the aged moulder to their graves.
Rustum he loves no more, but loves the young —
The young may rise at Sohrab's vaunts, not I.
For what care I, though all speak Sohrab's fame ?
For would that I myself had such a son.
And not that one slight helpless girl I have —
A son so famed, so brave, to send to war.
And I to tarry with the snow-hair'd Zal,
My father, whom the robber Afghans vex,
And clip his borders short, and drive his herds,
And he has none to guard his weak old age.
There would I go, and hang my armour up.
And with my great name fence that weak old man,
And spend the goodly treasures I have got,
And rest my age, and hear of Sohrab's fame.
And leave to death the hosts of thankless kings,
And with these slaughterous hands draw sword no
He spoke, and smiled ; and Gudurz made
reply : —
' What then, O Rustum, will men say to this,
When Sohrab dares our bravest forth, and seeks
Thee most of all, and thou, whom most he seeks,
Hidest thy face ? Take heed lest men should say :
94 SOHRAB AND RUSTUM.
Like some old miser, Rusium hoards his fame,
And shuns to peril it with younger men!
And, greatly moved, then Rustum made reply: —
' O Gudurz, wherefore dost thou say such words ?
Thou knowest better words than this to say.
What is one more, one less, obscure or famed,
Valiant or craven, young or old, to me?
Are not they mortal, am not I myself?
But who for men of nought would do great deeds ?
Come, thou shalt see how Rustum hoards his fame!
But I will fight unknown, and in plain arms ;
Let not men say of Rustum, he was match'd
In single fight with any mortal man.'
He spoke, and frown'd ; and Gudurz turn'd, and
Back quickly through the camp in fear and joy.
Fear at his wrath, but joy that Rustum came.
But Rustum strode to his tent-door, and call'd
His followers in, and bade them bring his arms,
And clad himself in steel; the arms he chose
Were plain, and on his shield was no device.
Only his helm was rich, inlaid with gold,
And, from the fluted spine atop, a plume
Of horsehair waved, a scarlet horsehair plume.
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM. 95
So arm'd, he issued forth; and Ruksh, his horse,
Follow'd him Hke a faithful hound at heel —
Ruksh, whose renown was noised through all the
The horse, whom Rustum on a foray once
Did in Bokhara by the river find
A colt beneath its dam, and drove him home,
And rear'd him; a bright bay, with lofty crest,
Dight with a saddle-cloth of broider'd green
Crusted with gold, and on the ground were work'd
All beasts of chase, all beasts which hunters know.
So follow'd, Rustum left his tents, and cross'd
The camp, and to the Persian host appear'd.
And all the Persians knew him, and with shouts
Hail'd ; but the Tartars knew not who he was.
And dear as the wet diver to the eyes
Of his pale wife who waits and weeps on shore,
By sandy Bahrein, in the Persian Gulf,
Plunging all day in the blue waves, at night,
Having made up his tale of precious pearls,
Rejoins her in their hut upon the sands —
So dear to the pale Persians Rustum came.
And Rustum to the Persian front advanced,
And Sohrab arm'd in Haman's tent, and came.
96 SOHRAB AND RUSTUM,
And as afield the reapers cut a swath
Down through the middle of a rich man's corn,
And on each side are squares of standing corn,
And in the midst a stubble, short and bare —
So on each side were squares of men, with spears
Bristling, and in the midst, the open sand.
And Rustum came upon the sand, and cast
His eyes toward the Tartar tents, and saw
Sohrab come forth, and eyed him as he came.
As some rich woman, on a winter's morn,
Eyes through her silken curtains the poor drudge
Who with numb blacken'd fingers makes her fire —
At cock-crow, on a starlit winter's morn.
When the frost flowers the whiten'd window-
And wonders how she lives, and what the thoughts
Of that poor drudge may be; so Rustum eyed
The unknown adventurous Youth, who from afar
Came seeking Rustum, and defying forth
All the most valiant chiefs; long he perused
His spirited air, and wonder'd who he was.
For very young he seem'd, tenderly rear'd;
Like some young cypress, tall, and dark, and
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM. 97
Which in a queen's secluded garden throws
Its slight dark shadow on the moonlit turf,
Bj midnight, to a bubbling fountain's sound —
So slender Sohrab seem'd, so softly rear'd.
And a deep pity enter'd Rustum's soul
As he beheld him coming; and he stood,
And beckon'd to him with his hand, and said : —
'O thou young man, the air of Heaven is soft,
And warm, and pleasant; but the grave is cold!
Heaven's air is better than the cold dead grave.
Behold me ! I am vast, and clad in iron.
And tried ; and I have stood on many a field
Of blood, and I have fought with many a foe —
Never was that field lost, or that foe saved.
O Sohrab, wherefore wilt thou rush on death?
Be govern'd! quit the Tartar host, and come
To Iran, and be as my son to me,
And fight beneath my banner till I die.
There are no youths in Iran brave as thou.'
So he spake, mildly; Sohrab heard his voice,
The mighty voice of Rustum, and he saw
His giant figure planted on the sand,
Sole, like some single tower, which a chief
Hath builded on the waste in former years
VOL. I. H
qs sohrab and rustum.
Against the robbers; and he saw that head,
Streak'd with its first grey hairs ; — hope fill'd his soul,
And he ran forward and embraced his knees,
And clasp' d his hand within his own, and said : —
' Oh, by thy father's head ! by thine own soul 1
Art thou not Rustum ? speak ! art thou not he ? '
But Rustum eyed askance the kneeling youth,
And turn'd away, and spake to his own soul: —
' Ah me, I muse what this young fox may mean !
False, wily, boastful, are these Tartar boys.
For if I now confess this thing he asks.
And hide it not, but say: Rusticm is here!
He will not yield indeed, nor quit our foes.
But he will find some pretext not to fight.
And praise my fame, and proffer courteous gifts,
A belt or sword perhaps, and go his way.
And on a feast-tide, in Afrasiab's hall,
In Samarcand, he will arise and cry:
" I challenged once, when the two armies camp'd
Beside the Oxus, all the Persian lords
To cope with me in single fight; but they
Shrank, only Rustum dared ; then he and I
Changed gifts, and went on equal terms away."
So will he speak, perhaps, while men applaud ;
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM. 99
Then were the chiefs of Iran shamed through me.'
And then he turn'd, and sternly spake aloud : —
' Rise ! wherefore dost thou vainly question thus
Of Rustum ? I am here, whom thou hast call'd
By challenge forth ; make good thy vaunt, or yield !
Is it with Rustum only thou wouldst fight?
Rash boy, men look on Rustum's face and flee !
For well I know, that did great Rustum stand
Before thy face this day, and were reveal'd.
There would be then no talk of fighting more.
But being what I am, I tell thee this —
Do thou record it in thine inmost soul :
Either thou shalt renounce thy vaunt, and yield;
Or else thy bones shall strew this sand, till winds
Bleach them, or Oxus with his summer-floods,
Oxus in summer wash them all away.'
He spoke; and Sohrab answer'd, on his feet: —
* Art thou so fierce ? Thou wilt not fright me so !
I am no girl, to be made pale by words.
Yet this thou hast said well, did Rustum stand
Here on this field, there were no fighting then.
But Rustum is far hence, and we stand here.
Begin ! thou art more vast, more dread than I,
And thou art proved, I know, and I am young —
loo SOHRAB AND RUSTUM.
But yet success sways with the breath of Heaven.
And though thou thinkest that thou knowest sure
Thy victory, yet thou canst not surely know.
For we are all, like swimmers in the sea,
Poised on the top of a huge wave of fate,
Which hangs uncertain to which side to fall.
And whether it will heave us up to land,
Or whether it will roll us out to sea.
Back out to sea, to the deep waves of death,
We know not, and no search will make us know ;
Only the event will teach us in its hour.'
He spoke, and Rustum answer'd not, but hurl'd
His spear; down from the shoulder, down it came.
As on some partridge in the corn a hawk
That long has tower'd in the airy clouds
Drops like a plummet; Sohrab saw it come,
And sprang aside, quick as a flash; the spear
Hiss'd, and went quivering down into the sand.
Which it sent flying wide; — then Sohrab threw
In turn, and full struck Rustum's shield; sharp
The iron plates rang sharp, but turn'd the spear.
And Rustum seized his club, which none but he
Could wield ; an unlopp'd trunk it was, and huge,
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM. loi
Still rough — like those which men in treeless plains
To build them boats fish from the flooded rivers,
Hyphasis or Hydaspes, when, high up
By their dark springs, the wind in winter-time
Hath made in Himalayan forests wrack.
And strewn the channels with torn boughs — so
The club which Rustum lifted now, and struck
One stroke; but again Sohrab sprang aside,
Lithe as the glancing snake, and the club came
Thundering to earth, and leapt from Rustum's
And Rustum follow'd his own blow, and fell
To his knees, and with his fingers clutch' d the
And now might Sohrab have unsheathed his sword,
And pierced the mighty Rustum while he lay
Dizzy, and on his knees, and choked with sand ;
But he look'd on, and smiled, nor bared his sword,
But courteously drew back, and spoke, and said : —
' Thou strik'st too hard ! that club of thine will
Upon the summer-floods, and not my bones.
But rise, and be not wroth ! not wroth am I ;
I02 SOHRAB AND RUSTUM.
No, when I see thee, wrath forsakes my soul.
Thou say'st, thou art not Rustum ; be it so !
Who art thou then, that canst so touch my soul?
Boy as I am, I have seen battles too —
Have waded foremost in their bloody waves,
And heard their hollow roar of dying men;
But never was my heart thus touch'd before.
Are they from Heaven, these softenings of the
O thou old warrior, let us yield to Heaven I
Come, plant we here in earth our angry spears,
And make a truce, and sit upon this sand.
And pledge each other in red wine, like friends.
And thou shalt talk to me of Rustum's deeds.
There are enough foes in the Persian host
Whom I may meet, and strike, and feel no pang;
Champions enough Afrasiab has, whom thou
Mayst fight; fight them, when they confront thy
But oh, let there be peace 'tvvdxt thee and me !'
He ceased, but while he spake, Rustum had
And stood erect, trembling with rage; his club
He left to lie, but had regain'd his spear,
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM. 103
Whose fiery point now in his mail'd right-hand
Blazed bright and baleful, like that autumn-star,
The baleful sign of fevers; dust had soil'd
His stately crest, and dimm'd his glittering arms.
His breast heaved, his lips foam'd, and twice his
Was choked with rage; at last these words broke
way : —
' Girl ! nimble with thy feet, not with thy hands !
Curl'd minion, dancer, coiner of sweet words !
Fight, let me hear thy hateful voice no more !
Thou art not in Afrasiab's gardens now
With Tartar girls, with whom thou art wont to
But on the Oxus-sands, and in the dance
Of battle, and with me, who make no play
Of war; I fight it out, and hand to hand.
Speak not to me of truce, and pledge, and wine !
Remember all thy valour; try thy feints
And cunning ! all the pity I had is gone ;
Because thou hast shamed me before both the
With thy light skipping tricks, and thy girl's wiles.'
He spoke, and Sohrab kindled at his taunts,
104 SOHRAB AND RUSTUM,
And he too drew his sword; at once they rush'd
Together, as two eagles on one prey
Come rushing down together from the clouds,
One from the east, one from the west ; their shields
Dash'd with a clang together, and a din
Rose, such as that the sinewy woodcutters
Make often in the forest's heart at morn,
Of hewing axes, crashing trees — such blows
Rustum and Sohrab on each other hail'd.
And you would say that sun and stars took part
In that unnatural conflict ; for a cloud
Grew suddenly in Heaven, and dark'd the sun
Over the fighters' heads; and a wind rose
Under their feet, and moaning swept the plain,
And in a sandy whirlwind wrapp'd the pair.
In gloom they twain were wrapp'd, and they alone ;
For both the on-looking hosts on either hand
Stood in broad daylight, and the sky was pure,
And the sun sparkled on the Oxus stream.
But in the gloom they fought, with bloodshot eyes
And labouring breath ; first Rustum struck the
Which Sohrab held stiff out ; the steel-spiked spear
Rent the tough plates, but fail'd to reach the skin.
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM. 105
And Rustum pluck'd it back with angry groan.
Then Sohrab with his sword smote Rustum's helm,
Nor clove its steel quite through ; but all the crest
He shore away, and that proud horsehair plume.
Never till now defiled, sank to the dust;
And Rustum bow'd his head; but then the gloom
Grew blacker, thunder rumbled in the air,
And lightnings rent the cloud; and Ruksh, the
Who stood at hand, utter'd a dreadful cry; —
No horse's cry was that, most like the roar
Of some pain'd desert-Kon, who all day
Has traird the hunter's javelin in his side,
And comes at night to die upon the sand —
The two hosts heard that cry, and quaked for fear,
And Oxus curdled as it cross'd his stream.
But Sohrab heard, and quail'd not, but rush'd on.
And struck again; and again Rustum bow'd
His head; but this time all the blade, like glass.
Sprang in a thousand shivers on the helm,
And in the hand the hilt remain'd alone.
Then Rustum raised his head; his dreadful eyes
Glared, and he shook on high his menacing spear,
And shouted : Rustum ! — Sohrab heard that shout,
io6 SOHRAB AND RUSTUM.
And shrank amazed; back he recoil'd one step,
And scann'd with blinking eyes the advancing form;
And then he stood bewilder'd, and he dropp'd
His covering shield, and the spear pierced his side.
He reel'd, and staggering back, sank to the
And then the gloom dispersed, and the wind fell,
And the bright sun broke forth, and melted all
The cloud; and the two armies saw the pair; —
Saw Rustum standing, safe upon his feet,
And Sohrab, wounded, on the bloody sand.
Then, with a bitter smile, Rustum began: —
' Sohrab, thou thoughtest in thy mind to kill
A Persian lord this day, and strip his corpse,
And bear thy trophies to Afrasiab's tent.
Or else that the great Rustum would come down
Himself to fight, and that thy wiles would move
His heart to take a gift, and let thee go.
And then that all the Tartar host would praise
Thy courage or thy craft, and spread thy fame,
To glad thy father in his weak old age.
Fool, thou art slain, and by an unknown man !
Dearer to the red jackals shalt thou be
Than to thy friends, and to thy father old.'
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM. 107
And, with a fearless mien, Sohrab replied : —
' Unknown thou art ; yet thy fierce vaunt is vain.
Thou dost not slay me, proud and boastful man!
No ! Rustum slays me, and this filial heart.
For were I match' d with ten such men as thou,
And I were he who till to-day I was.
They should be lying here, I standing there.
But that beloved name unnerved my arm —
That name, and something, I confess, in thee.
Which troubles all my heart, and made my shield
Fall; and thy spear transfix'd an unarm'd foe.
And now thou boastest, and insult' st my fate.
But hear thou this, fierce man, tremble to hear:
The mighty Rustum shall avenge my death !
My father, whom I seek through all the world.
He shall avenge my death, and punish thee!'
As when some hunter in the spring hath found
A breeding eagle sitting on her nest,
Upon the craggy isle of a hill-lake.
And pierced her with an arrow as she rose,
And follow'd her to find her where she fell
Far off; — anon her mate comes winging back
From hunting, and a great way off descries
His huddling young left sole; at that, he checks
io8 SOHRAB AND RUSTUM.
His pinion, and with short uneasy sweeps
Circles above his eyry, with loud screams
Chiding his mate back to her nest; but she
Lies dying, with the arrow in her side,
In some far stony gorge out of his ken,
A heap of fluttering feathers — never more
Shall the lake glass her, flying over it;
Never the black and dripping precipices
Echo her stormy scream as she sails by —
As that poor bird flies home, nor knows his loss.
So Rustum knew not his own loss, but stood
Over his dying son, and knew him not.
But with a cold, incredulous voice, he said: —
' What prate is this of fathers and revenge ?
The mighty Rustum never had a son.'
And, with a failing voice, Sohrab replied : —
' Ah yes, he had ! and that lost son am I.
Surely the news will one day reach his ear,
Reach Rustum, where he sits, and tarries long.
Somewhere, I know not where, but far from here ;
And pierce him like a stab, and make him leap
To arms, and cry for vengeance upon thee.
Fierce man, bethink thee, for an only son !
What will that grief, what will that vengeance be?
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM. 109
Oh, could I live, till I that grief had seen !
Yet him I pity not so much, but her,
JNIy mother, who in Ader-baijan dwells
With that old king, her father, who grows grey
With age, and rules over the valiant Koords.
Her most I pity, who no more will see
Sohrab returning from the Tartar camp.
With spoils and honour, when the war is done.
But a dark rumour will be bruited up,
From tribe to tribe, until it reach her ear ;
And then will that defenceless woman learn
That Sohrab will rejoice her sight no more ;
But that in battle with a nameless foe,
By the far-distant Oxus, he is slain.'
He spoke ; and as he ceased, he wept aloud.
Thinking of her he left, and his own death.
He spoke; but Rustum Hsten'd, plunged in thought.
Nor did he yet believe it was his son
Who spoke, although he call'd back names he
For he had had sure tidings that the babe,
W^hich was in Ader-baijan born to him,
Had been a puny girl, no boy at all —
So that sad mother sent him word, for fear
no SOHRAB AND RUSTUM.
Rustum should seek the boy, to train in arms.
And so he deem'd that either Sohrab took,
By a false boast, the style of Rustum's son;
Or that men gave it him, to swell his fame.
So deem'd he ; yet he Hsten'd, plunged in thought
And his soul set to grief, as the vast tide
Of the bright rocking Ocean sets to shore
At the full moon; tears gather'd in his eyes;
For he remember'd his own early youth.
And all its bounding rapture; as, at dawn,
The shepherd from his mountain-lodge descries
A far, bright city, smitten by the sun,
Through many rolling clouds — so Rustum saw
His youth ; saw Sohrab's mother, in her bloom ;
And that old king, her father, who loved well
His wandering guest, and gave him his fair child
With joy ; and all the pleasant life they led.
They three, in that long-distant summer-time — ■
The castle, and the dewy woods, and hunt
And hound, and morn on those delightful hills
In Ader-baijan. And he saw that Youth,
Of age and looks to be his own dear son,
Piteous and lovely, lying on the sand,
Like some rich hyacinth, which by the scythe
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM. iii
Of an unskilful gardener has been cut,
IMowing the garden grass-plots near its bed,
And lies, a fragrant tower of purple bloom,
On the mown, dying grass — so Sohrab lay,
Lovely in death, upon the common sand.
And Rustum gazed on him with grief, and said : —
' O Sohrab, thou indeed art such a son
Whom Rustum, wert thou his, might well have
Yet here thou arrest, Sohrab, or else men
Have told thee false — thou art not Rustum's son.
For Rustum had no son; one child he had —
But one — a girl ; who with her mother now
PHes some light female task, nor dreams of us —
Of us she dreams not, nor of wounds, nor war.'
But Sohrab answer'd him in wrath; for now
The anguish of the deep-fix'd spear grew fierce,
And he desired to draw forth the steel,
And let the blood flow free, and so to die;
But first he would convince his stubborn foe.
And, rising sternly on one arm, he said : —
'Man, who art thou who dost deny my words?
Truth sits upon the lips of dying men,
And falsehood, while I lived, was far from mine.
112 SOHRAB AND RUSTUM.
I tell thee, prick'd upon this arm I bear
That seal which Rustum to my mother gave,
That she might prick it on the babe she bore.'
He spoke; and all the blood left Rustum's
And his knees totter'd, and he smote his hand
Against his breast, his heavy mailed hand.
That the hard iron corslet clank'd aloud;
And to his heart he press'd the other hand,
And in a hollow voice he spake, and said : —
* Sohrab, that were a proof which could not lie !
If thou show this, then art thou Rustum's son.'
Then, with weak hasty fingers, Sohrab loosed
His belt, and near the shoulder bared his arm,
And show'd a sign in faint vermilion points
Prick'd; as a cunning workman, in Pekin,
Pricks with vermilion some clear porcelain vase.
An emperor's gift — at early morn he paints,
And all day long, and, when night comes, the lamp
Lights up his studious forehead and thin hands —
So delicately prick'd the sign appear'd
On Sohrab's arm, the sign of Rustum's seal.
It was that griffin, which of old rear'd Zal,
Rustum's great father, whom they left to die,
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM. 113
A helpless babe, among the mountain-rocks.
Him that kind creature found, and rearM, and
Then Rustum took it for his glorious sign.
And Sohrab bared that figure on his arm.
And himself scann'd it long with mournful eyes,
And then he touch'd it with his hand and said : —
' How say'st thou .? Is that sign the proper sign
Of Rustum's son, or of some other man's?'
He spoke; but Rustum gazed, and gazed, and
Speechless ; and then he utter'd one sharp cry :
O boy — thy father ! — and his voice choked there.
And then a dark cloud pass'd before his eyes,
And his head swam, and he sank down to earth.
But Sohrab crawl'd to where he lay, and cast
His arms about his neck, and kiss'd his lips,
And with fond faltering fingers stroked his cheeks,
Trying to call him back to life; and life
Came back to Rustum, and he oped his eyes^
And they stood wide with horror; and he seized
In both his hands the dust which lay around,
And threw it on his head, and smirch'd his hair,— -
His hair, and face, and beard, and glittering arms;
VOL. I. I
1 14 SOHRAB AND RUSTUM.
And strong convulsive groanings shook his breast,
And his sobs choked him; and he clutch'd his
To draw it, and for ever let life out.
But Sohrab saw his thought, and held his hands,
And with a soothing voice he spoke, and said : — ■
' Father, forbear ! for I but meet to-day
The doom which at my birth was written down
In Heaven, and thou art Heaven's unconscious
Surely my heart cried out that it was thou.
When first I saw thee; and thy heart spoke too,
I know it! but fate trod those promptings down
Under its iron heel; fate, fate engaged
The strife, and hmi'd me on my father's spear.
But let us speak no more of this ! I find
My father ; let me feel that I have found !
Come, sit beside me on this sand, and take
My head betwixt thy hands, and kiss my cheeks.
And wash them with thy tears, and say : My son !
Quick ! quick ! for number'd are my sands of life.
And swift; for like the lightning to this field
I came, and like the wind I go away —
Sudden, and swift, and like a passing wind.
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM. 115
But it was writ in Heaven that this should be.'
So said he, and his voice released the heart
Of Rustum, and his tears broke forth; he cast
His arms round his son's neck, and wept aloud,
And kiss'd him. And awe fell on both the hosts,
When they saw Rustum's grief; and Ruksh the
With his head bowing to the ground and mane
Sweeping the dust, came near, and in mute woe
First to the one then to the other moved
His head, as if enquiring what their grief
Might mean; and from his dark, compassionate
The big warm tears roll'd down, and caked the
But Rustum chid him with stern voice, and said : —
* Ruksh, now thou grievest ; but, O Ruksh, thy
Should then have rotted on their nimble joints,
When first they bore thy master to this field!'
But Sohrab look'd upon the horse and said: —
' Is this, then, Ruksh .? How often, in past days.
My mother told me of thee, thou brave steed.
My terrible father's terrible horse! and said,
ii6 SOHRAB AND RUSTUM.
That I should one day find thy lord and thee.
Come, let me lay my hand upon thy mane !
O Ruksh, thou art more fortunate than I;
For thou hast gone where I shall never go,
And snuff 'd the breezes of my father's home.
And thou hast trod the sands of Seistan,
And seen the River of Helmund, and the Lake
Of Zirrah; and the aged Zal himself
Has often stroked thy neck, and given thee food,
Corn in a golden platter soak'd with wine,
And said : Riiksh I bear Rusium well I — but I
Have never known my grandsire's furrow'd face,
Nor seen his lofty house in Seistan,
Nor slaked my thirst at the clear Helmund stream;
But lodged among my father's foes, and seen
Afrasiab's cities only, Samarcand,
Bokhara, and lone Khiva in the waste,
And the black Toorkmun tents; and only drunk
The desert rivers, Moorghab and Tejend,
Kohik, and where the Kalmuks feed their sheep,
The northern Sir; and this great Oxus stream.
The yellow Oxus, by whose brink I die.'
And, with a heavy groan, Rustum replied : —
' Oh, that its waves were flowing over me !
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM. 117
Oh, that I saw its grains of yellow silt
Roll tumbling in the current o'er my headi'
And, with a grave mild voice, Sohrab replied : —
' Desire not that, my father ! thou must live.
For some are born to do great deeds, and live,
As some are born to be obscured, and die.
Do thou the deeds I die too young to do,
And reap a second glory in thine age ;
Thou art my father, and thy gain is mine.
But come ! thou seest this great host of men
Which follow me ; I pray thee, slay not these !
Let me intreat for them ; vrhat have they done ?
They follow'd me, my hope, my fame, my star.
Let them all cross the Oxus back in peace.
But me thou must bear hence, not send with them,
But carry me with thee to Seistan,
And place me on a bed, and mourn for me.
Thou, and the snow-hair'd Zal, and all thy friends.
And thou must lay me in that lovely earth,
And heap a stately mound above my bones,
And plant a far-seen pillar over all.
That so the passing horseman on the waste
May see my tomb a great way off, and cry:
Sohrab, the mighty Rtcs turn's son, lies there,
ii8 SOHRAB AND RUSTUM.
Who?Ji his great father did in ignorance kill !
And I be not forgotten in my grave.'
And, with a mournful voice, Rustum replied: —
'Fear not! as thou hast said, Sohrab, my son.
So shall it be; for I will burn my tents,
And quit the host, and bear thee hence with me,
And carry thee away to Seistan,
And place thee on a bed, and mourn for thee,
With the snow-headed Zal, and all my friends.
And I will lay thee in that lovely earth,
And heap a stately mound above thy bones.
And plant a far-seen pillar over all.
And men shall not forget thee in thy grave.
And I will spare thy host ; yea, let them go !
Let them all cross the Oxus back in peace !
What should I do with slaying any more?
For would that all whom I have ever slain
Might be once more alive; my bitterest foes.
And they who were call'd champions in their time,
And through whose death I won that fame I have —
And I were nothing but a common man,
A poor, mean soldier, and without renown.
So thou mightest live too, my son, my son !
Or rather would that I, even I myself,
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM. 119
Might now be lying on this bloody sand,
Near death, and by an ignorant stroke of thine.
Not thou of mine ! and I might die, not thou ;
And I, not thou, be borne to Seistan;
And Zal might weep above my grave, not thine;
And say : son, I weep thee not too sore,
For willingly, I know, thou mefst thine end!
But now in blood and battles was my youth,
And full of blood and battles is my age.
And I shall never end this life of blood.'
Then, at the point of death, Sohrab replied : —
' A life of blood indeed, thou dreadful man !
But thou shalt yet have peace; only not now,
Not yet! but thou shalt have it on that day.
When thou shalt sail in a high-masted ship.
Thou and the other peers of Kai Khosroo,
Returning home over the salt blue sea,
From laying thy dear master in his grave.'
And Rustum gazed in Sohrab's face, and said : —
' Soon be that day, my son, and deep that sea !
Till then, if fate so wills, let me endure.'
He spoke; and Sohrab smiled on him, and took
The spear, and drew it from his side, and eased
His wound's imperious anguish; but the blood
120 SOHRAB AND RUSTUM.
Came welling from the open gash, and life
Flow'd with the stream ; — all down his cold white side
The crimson torrent ran, dim now and soil'd,
Like the soil'd tissue of white violets
Left, freshly gather'd, on their native bank,
By romping children whom their nurses call
Indoors from the sun's eye ; his head droop'd low,
His limbs grew slack ; motionless, white, he lay —
White, with eyes closed; only when heavy gasps,
Deep heavy gasps quivering through all his frame.
Convulsed him back to life, he open'd them,
And fix'd them feebly on his father's face;
Till now all strength was ebb'd, and from his limbs
Unwillingly the spirit fled away.
Regretting the warm mansion which it left.
And youth, and bloom, and this delightful vv^orld.
So, on the bloody sand, Sohrab lay dead.
And the great Rustum drew his horseman's cloak
Down o'er his face, and sate by his dead son.
As those black granite pillars, once high-rear'd
By Jemshid in Persepolis, to bear
His house, now mid their broken flights of steps
Lie prone, enormous, down the mountain side —
So in the sand lay Rustum by his son.
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM. 121
And night came down over the solemn waste,
And the two gazing hosts, and that sole pair,
And darken'd all; and a cold fog, with night,
Crept from the Oxus. Soon a hum arose,
As of a great assembly loosed, and fires
Began to twinkle through the fog; for now
Both armies moved to camp, and took their meal;
The Persians took it on the open sands
Southward, the Tartars by the river marge;
And Rustum and his son were left alone.
But the majestic river floated on,
Out of the mist and hum of that low land;
Into the frosty starlight, and there moved.
Rejoicing, through the hush'd Chorasmian waste.
Under the solitary moon; — he flow'd
Right for the polar star, past Orgunje,
Brimming, and bright, and large; then sands begin
To hem his watery march, and dam his streams,
And split his currents; that for many a league
The shorn and parcell'd Oxus strains along
Through beds of sand and matted rushy isles —
Oxus, forgetting the bright speed he had
122 SOHRAB AND RUSTUM.
In his high mountain-cradle in Pamere,
A foil'd circuitous wanderer — till at last
The long'd-for dash of waves is heard, and wide
His luminous home of waters opens, bright
And tranquil, from whose floor the new-bathed stars
Emerge, and shine upon the Aral Sea.
THE SICK KING IN BOKHARA,
C\ MOST just Vizier, send away
The cloth-merchants, and let them be,
Them and their dues, this day! the King
Is ill at ease, and calls for thee.
O merchants, tarry yet a day
Here in Bokhara ! but at noon
To-morrow, come, and ye shall pay
Each fortieth web of cloth to me.
As the law is, and go your way.
O Hussein, lead me to the King!
Thou teller of sweet tales, thine own,
Ferdousi's, and the others', lead !
How is it with my lord.?
124 THE SICK KING IN BOKHARA.
Ever since prayer-time, he doth wait,
O Vizier ! without lying down,
In the great window of the gate,
Looking into the Registan,
Where through the sellers' booths the slaves
Are this way bringing the dead man. —
O Vizier, here is the King's door!
O Vizier, I may bury him?
O King, thou know'st, I have been sick
These many days, and heard no thing
(For Allah shut my ears and mind).
Not even what thou dost, O King !
Wherefore, that I may counsel thee.
Let Hussein, if thou wilt, make haste
To speak in order what hath chanced.
O Vizier, be it as thou say'st!
THE SICK KING IN BOKHARA. 125
Three days since, at the time of prayer,
A certain IMooilah, with his robe
All rent, and dust upon his hair,
Watch'd my lord's coming forth, and push'd
The golden mace-bearers aside,
And fell at the King's feet, and cried :
'Justice, O King, and on myself!
On this great sinner, who did break
The law, and by the law must die !
Vengeance, O King ! '
But the King spake:
* What fool is this, that hurts our ears
With folly ? or what drunken slave ?
My guards, what, prick him with your spears !
Prick me the fellow from the path ! '
As the King said, so was it done,
And to the mosque my lord passed on.
But on the morrow, when the King
Went forth again, the holy book
Carried before him, as is right,
And through the square his path he took;
12.6 THE SICK KING IN BOKHARA.
My man comes running, fleck'd with blood
From yesterday, and falling down
Cries out most earnestly: 'O King,
My lord, O King, do right, I pray!
' How canst thou, ere thou hear, discern
If I speak folly? but a king.
Whether a thing be great or small,
Like Allah, hears and judges all.
' Wherefore hear thou ! Thou know'st, how
In these last days the sun hath burn'd;
That the green water in the tanks
Is to a putrid puddle turn'd;
And the canal, that from the stream
Of Samarcand is brought this way.
Wastes, and runs thinner every day.
'Now I at nightfall had gone forth
Alone, and in a darksome place
Under some mulberry-trees I found
A little pool; and in short space
With all the water that was there
THE SICK KING IN BOKHARA, i2-j
I fiird my pitcher, and stole home
Unseen; and having drink to spare,
I hid the can behind the door,
And went up on the roof to sleep.
'But in the night, which was with wind
And burning dust, again I creep
Down, having fever, for a drink.
'Now meanwhile had my brethren found
The water-pitcher, where it stood
Behind the door upon the ground,
And call'd my mother; and they all,
As they w^ere thirsty, and the night
Most sultry, drain'd the pitcher there;
That they sate with it, in my sight,
Their lips still wet, when I came down.
' Now mark ! I, being fever' d, sick
(Most unblest also), at that sight
Brake forth, and cursed them — dost thou hear ? —
One was my mother Now, do right ! '
But my lord mused a space, and said :
' Send him away, Sirs, and make on !
128 THE SICK KING IN BOKHARA.
It is some madman !' the King said.
As the King bade, so was it done.
The morrow, at the self-same hour,
In the King's path, behold, the man,
Not kneeling, sternly fix'd ! he stood
Right opposite, and thus began.
Frowning grim down : * Thou wicked King,
Most deaf where thou shouldst most give ear !
What, must I howl in the next world,
Because thou wilt not listen here ?
' What, wilt thou pray, and get thee grace,
And all grace shall to me be grudged?
Nay but, I swear, from this thy path
I will not stir till I be judged!'
Then they who stood about the King
Drew close together and conferr'd ;
Till that the King stood forth and said :
'Before the priests thou shalt be heard.'
But when the Ulemas were met,
And the thing heard, they doubted not;
THE SICK KING IN BOKHARA, 129
But sentenced him, as the law is,
To die by stoning on the spot.
Now the King charged us secretly :
* Stoned must he be, the law stands so.
Yet, if he seek to fly, give way ;
Hinder him not, but let him go.'
So saying, the King took a stone,
And cast it softly; — but the man,
With a great joy upon his face,
Kneel'd down, and cried not, neither ran.
So they, whose lot it was, cast stones.
That they flew thick and bruised him sore.
But he praised Allah with loud voice.
And remain'd kneeling as before.
My lord had cover'd up his face;
But when one told him, 'He is dead,'
Turning him quickly to go in,
' Bring thou to me his corpse,' he said.
And truly, while I speak, O King,
I hear the bearers on the stair;
VOL. I. K
ISO THE SICK KING IN BOKHARA,
Wilt thou they straightway bring him in?
— Ho ! enter ye who tarry there !
O King, in this I praise thee not!
Now must I call thy grief not wise.
Is he thy friend, or of thy blood,
To find such favour in thine eyes?
Nay, were he thine own mother's son,
Still, thou art king, and the law stands.
It were not meet the balance swerved,
The sword were broken in thy hands.
But being nothing, as he is.
Why for no cause make sad thy face? —
Lo, I am old! three kings, ere thee,
Have I seen reigning in this place.
But who, through all this length of time,
Could bear the burden of his years.
If he for strangers pain'd his heart
Not less than those who merit tears?
THE SICK KING IN BOKHARA, 131
Fathers we musi have, wife and child,
And grievous is the grief for these;
This pain alone, which must be borne,
Makes the head white, and bows the knees.
But other loads than this his own
One man is not well made to bear.
Besides, to each are his own friends,
To mourn with him, and shew him care.
Look, this is but one single place.
Though it be great ; all the earth round,
If a man bear to have it so,
Things which might vex him shall be found.
Upon the Russian frontier, where
The watchers of two armies stand
Near one another, many a man,
Seeking a prey unto his hand,
Hath snatch'd a little fair-hair'd slave ;
They snatch also, towards IMerve,
The Shiah dogs, who pasture sheep,
And up from thence to Orgunje.
132 THE SICK KING IN BOKHARA.
And these all, labouring for a lord,
Eat not the fruit of their own hands ;
Which is the heaviest of all plagues,
To that man's mind, who understands.
The kaffirs also (whom God curse !)
Vex one another, night and day;
There are the lepers, and all sick;
There are the poor, who faint alway.
All these have sorrow, and keep still,
Whilst other men make cheer, and sing.
Wilt thou have pity on all these?
No, nor on this dead dog, O King !
O Vizier, thou art old, I young!
Clear in these things I cannot see.
My head is burning, and a heat
Is in my skin which angers me.
But hear ye this, ye sons of men !
They that bear rule, and are obey'd,
THE SICK KING IN BOKHARA. 133
Unto a rule more strong than theirs
Are in their turn obedient made.
In vain therefore, with wistful eyes
Gazing up hither, the poor man.
Who loiters by the high-heap'd booths,
Below there, in the Registan,
Says : ' Happy he, who lodges there !
With silken raiment, store of rice.
And for this drought, all kinds of fruits,
Grape syrup, squares of colour'd ice,
'With cherries serv'd in drifts of snow.'
In vain hath a king power to build
Houses, arcades, enamell'd mosques ;
And to make orchard-closes, fill'd
With curious fruit-trees brought from far ;
With cisterns for the winter-rain,
And in the desert, spacious inns
In divers places — if that pain
Is not more lighten'd, which he feels.
If his will be not satisfied
134 "^HE SICK KING IN BOKHARA.
And that it be not, from all time
The law is planted, to abide.
Thou wast a sinner, thou poor man!
Thou wast athirst; and didst not see,
That, though we take what we desire,
We must not snatch it eagerly.
And I have meat and drink at will,
And rooms of treasures, not a few.
But I am sick, nor heed I these;
And what I would, I cannot do.
Even the great honour which I have.
When I am dead, will soon grow still;
So have I neither joy, nor fame.
But what I can do, that I will.
I have a fretted brick-work tomb
Upon a hill on the right hand,
Hard by a close of apricots.
Upon the road of Samarcand ;
Thither, O Vizier, will I bear
This man my pity could not save.
THE SICK KING IN BOKHARA. 135
And, plucking up the marble flags,
There lay his body in my grave.
Bring water, nard, and linen-rolls !
Wash off all blood, set smooth each limb !
Then say : ' He was not wholly vile.
Because a king shall bury him/
OO on the floor lay Balder dead; and round
Lay thickly strewn swords, axes, darts, and spears,
Which all the Gods in sport had idly thrown
At Balder, whom no weapon pierced or clove ;
But in his breast stood fixt the fatal bough
Of mistletoe, which Lok the Accuser gave
To Hoder, and unwitting Hoder threw —
'Gainst that alone had Balder's life no charm.
And all the Gods and all the Heroes came,
And stood round Balder on the bloody floor,
Weeping and wailing; and Valhalla rang
Up to its golden roof with sobs and cries.
And on the tables stood the untasted meats.
And in the horns and gold-rimm'd sculls the wine.
And now would night have falFn, and found them yet
Wailing; but otherwise was Odin's will.
And thus the father of the ages spake: —
BALDER DEAD. 137
' Enough of tears, ye Gods, enough of wail !
Not to lament in was Valhalla made.
If any here might weep for Balder's death,
I most might weep, his father; such a son
I lose to-day, so bright, so loved a God.
But he has met that doom, which long ago
The Nornies, when his mother bare him, spun,
And fate set seal, that so his end must be.
Balder has met his death, and ye survive —
Weep him an hour, but what can grief avail ?
For ye yourselves, ye Gods, shall meet your doom.
All ye who hear me, and inhabit Heaven,
And I too, Odin too, the Lord of all.
But ours we shall not meet, when that day comes,
With women's tears and weak complaining cries —
Why should we meet another's portion so ?
Rather it fits you, having wept your hour.
With cold dry eyes, and hearts composed and stern,
To live, as erst, your daily life in Heaven.
By me shall vengeance on the murderer Lok,
The foe, the accuser, whom, though Gods, we hate,
Be strictly cared for, in the appointed day.
Meanwhile, to-morrow, when the morning dawns,
Bring wood to the seashore to Balder's ship,
138 BALDER DEAD.
And on the deck build high a funeral-pile,
And on the top lay Balder's corpse, and put
Fire to the wood, and send him out to sea
To burn; for that is what the dead desire/
So spake the King of Gods, and straightway rose.
And mounted his horse Sleipner, whom he rode;
And from the hall of Heaven he rode away
To Lidskialf, and sate upon his throne,
The mount, from whence his eye surveys the world.
And far from Heaven he turn'd his shining orbs
To look on Midgard, and the earth, and men.
And on the conjuring Lapps he bent his gaze
Whom antler'd reindeer pull over the snow;
And on the Finns, the gentlest of mankind.
Fair men, who live in holes under the ground;
Nor did he look once more to Ida's plain,
Nor toward Valhalla, and the sorrowing Gods ;
For well he knew the Gods would heed his word.
And cease to mourn, and think of Balder's pyre.
But in Valhalla all the Gods went back
From around Balder, all the Heroes went;
And left his body stretch'd upon the floor.
And on their golden chairs they sate again.
Beside the tables, in the hall of Heaven ;
BALDER DEAD. 139
And before each the cooks who served them placed
New messes of the boar Serimner's flesh,
And the Valkyries crown'd their horns with mead.
So they, with pent-up hearts and tearless eyes,
Wailing no more, in silence ate and drank,
While twilight fell, and sacred night came on.
But the blind Hoder left the feasting Gods
In Odin's hall, and went through Asgard streets,
And past the haven where the Gods have moor'd
Their ships, and through the gate, beyond the wall ;
Though sightless, yet his own mind led the God.
Down to the margin of the roaring sea
He came, and sadly went along the sand,
Between the waves and black o'erhanging cliffs
Where in and out the screaming seafowl fly;
Until he came to v/here a gully breaks
Through the cliff'-wall, and a fresh stream runs down
From the high moors behind, and meets the sea.
There in the glen Fensaler stands, the house
Of Frea, honour'd mother of the Gods,
And shews its lighted windows to the main.
There he went up, and pass'd the open doors;
And in the hall he found those women old.
The prophetesses, who by rite eterne
140 BALDER DEAD.
On Frea's hearth feed high the sacred fire
Both night and day; and by the inner wall
Upon her golden chair the Mother sate,
With folded hands, revolving things to come.
To her drew Hoder near, and spake, and said : —
* Mother, a child of bale thou bar'st in me !
For, first, thou barest me with blinded eyes,
Sightless and helpless, wandering weak in Heaven;
And, after that, of ignorant witless mind
Thou barest me, and unforeseeing soul;
That I alone must take the branch from Lok,
The foe, the accuser, whom, though Gods, we hate,
And cast it at the dear-loved Balder's breast
At whom the Gods in sport their weapons threw —
'Gainst that alone had Balder's life no charm.
Now therefore what to attempt, or whither fly,
For who will bear my hateful sight in Heaven .?
Can I, O mother, bring them Balder back.?
Or — for thou know'st the fates, and things allow' d —
Can I with Hela's power a compact strike.
And make exchange, and give my life for his.'''
He spoke ; the mother of the Gods repHed : —
* Hoder, ill-fated, child of bale, my son.
Sightless in soul and eye, what words are these .-^
BALDER DEAD. 141
That one, long portion'd with his doom of death,
Should change his lot, and fill another's life,
And Hela yield to this, and let him go !
On Balder Death hath laid her hand, not thee;
Nor doth she count this life a price for that.
For many Gods in Heaven, not thou alone.
Would freely die to purchase Balder back,
And wend themselves to Hela's gloomy realm.
For not so gladsome is that life in Heaven
Which Gods and heroes lead, in feast and fray,
Waiting the darkness of the final times.
That one should grudge its loss for Balder's sake,
Balder their joy, so bright, so loved a God.
But fate withstands, and laws forbid this way.
Yet in my secret mind one way I know,
Nor do I judge if it shall win or fail;
But much must still be tried, which shall but fail.'
And the blind Hoder answer'd her, and said : —
' What way is this, O mother, that thou shew'st ?
Is it a matter which a God might try?'
And straight the mother of the Gods replied : —
^ There is a way which leads to Hela's realm,
Untrodden, lonely, far from light and Heaven.
Who goes that way must take no other horse
142 BALDER DEAD.
To ride, but Sleipner, Odin's horse, alone.
Nor must he choose that common path of Gods
Which every day they come and go in Heaven,
. O'er the bridge Bifrost, where is Heimdall's watch,
Past Midgard fortress, down to earth and men.
But he must tread a dark untravell'd road
Which branches from the north of Heaven, and
Nine days, nine nights, toward the northern ice,
Through valleys deep-engulph'd, with roaring streams.
And he will reach on the tenth morn a bridge
Which spans with golden arches Giall's stream,
Not Bifrost, but that bridge a damsel keeps.
Who tells the passing troops of dead their way
To the low shore of ghosts, and Hela's realm.
And she will bid him northward steer his course.
Then he will journey through no lighted land,
Nor see the sun arise, nor see it set;
But he must ever watch the northern bear.
Who from her frozen height with jealous eye
Confronts the dog and hunter in the south.
And is alone not dipt in Ocean's stream.
And straight he will come down to Ocean's strand —
Ocean, whose watery ring enfolds the world,
BALDER DEAD. 143
And on whose marge the ancient giants dwell.
But he will reach its unknown northern shore.
Far, far beyond the outmost giant's home,
At the chink'd fields of ice, the waste of snow.
And he must fare across the dismal ice
Northward, until he meets a stretching wall
Barring his way, and in the wall a grate.
But then he must dismount, and on the ice
Tighten the girths of Sleipner, Odin's horse,
And make him leap the grate, and come within.
And he will see stretch round him Hela's realm.
The plains of Niflheim, where dwell the dead,
And hear the roaring of the streams of Hell.
And he will see the feeble shadowy tribes,
And Balder sitting crown'd, and Hela's throne.
Then must he not regard the wailful ghosts
Who all will flit, like eddying leaves, around;
But he must straight accost their solemn queen.
And pay her homage, and entreat with prayers,
Telling her all that grief they have in Heaven
For Balder, whom she holds by right below.
If haply he may melt her heart with words.
And make her yield, and give him Balder back.'
She spoke ; but Hoder answer' d her and said : —
144 BALDER DEAD.
'Mother, a dreadful way is this thou shew'st.
No journey for a sightless God to go!'
And straight the mother of the Gods replied : —
' Therefore thyself thou shalt not go, my son.
But he whom first thou meetest when thou com'st
To Asgard, and declar'st this hidden way,
Shall go; and I will be his guide unseen.'
She spoke, and on her face let fall her veil,
And bow'd her head, and sate with folded hands.
But at the central hearth those women old,
Who while the Mother spake had ceased their toil,
Began again to heap the sacred fire.
And Hoder turn'd, and left his mother's house,
Fensaler, whose lit windows look to sea;
And came again down to the roaring waves,
And back along the beach to Asgard went,
Pondering on that which Frea said should be.
But night came down, and darken'd Asgard
Then from their loathed feast the Gods arose,
And lighted torches, and took up the corpse
Of Balder from the floor of Odin's hall.
And laid it on a bier, and bare him home
Through the fast-darkening streets to his own house,
Breidablik, on whose columns Balder graved
The enchantments that recall the dead to life.
For wise he was, and many curious arts,
Postures of runes, and healing herbs he knew;
Unhappy! but that art he did not know.
To keep his own life safe, and see the sun.
There to his hall the Gods brought Balder home,
And each bespake him as he laid him down: —
' Would that ourselves, O Balder, we were borne
Home to our halls, with torchlight, by our kin.
So thou might'st live, and still delight the Gods ! '
They spake; and each went home to his own
But there was one, the first of all the Gods
For speed, and Hermod was his name in Heaven;
Most fleet he was, but now he went the last,
Heavy in heart for Balder, to his house
Which he in Asgard built him, there to dwell,
Against the harbour, by the city-wall.
Him the blind Hoder met, as he came up
From the sea cityward, and knew his step;
Nor yet could Hermod see his brother's face,
For it grew dark ; but Hoder touch'd his arm.
And as a spray of honeysuckle flowers
VOL. I. L
146 BALDER DEAD.
Brushes across a tired traveller's face
Who shuffles through the deep dew-moisten'd dust,
On a May evening, in the darken'd lanes.
And starts him, that he thinks a ghost went by —
So Hoder brush'd by Hermod's side, and said : —
* Take Sleipner, Hermod, and set forth with dawn
To Hela's kingdom, to ask Balder back;
And they shall be thy guides, who have the power.'
He spake, and brush'd soft by, and disappear'd.
And Hermod gazed into the night, and said : —
' Who is it utters through the dark his hest
So quickly, and will wait for no reply?
The voice was like the unhappy Hoder's voice.
Howbeit I will see, and do his hest;
For there rang note divine in that command.'
So speaking, the fleet-footed Hermod came
Home, and lay down to sleep in his own house;
And all the Gods lay down in their own homes.
And Hoder too came home, distraught with grief.
Loathing to meet, at dawn, the other Gods;
And he went in, and shut the door, and fixt
His sword upright, and fell on it, and died.
But from the hill of Lidskialf Odin rose.
The throne, from which his eye surveys the world;
BALDER DEAD. 147
And mounted Sleipner, and in darkness rode
To Asgard. And the stars came out in heaven,
High over Asgard, to light home the King.
But fiercely Odin gallop'd, moved in heart;
And swift to Asgard, to the gate, he came.
And terribly the hoofs of Sleipner rang
Along the flinty floor of Asgard streets,
And the Gods trembled on their golden beds
Hearing the wrathful Father coming home —
For dread, for like a whirlwind, Odin came.
And to Valhalla's gate he rode, and left
Sleipner ; and Sleipner \vent to his own stall ;
And in Valhalla Odin laid him down.
But in Breidablik Nanna, Balder's wife.
Came with the Goddesses who wrought her will,
And stood by Balder lying on his bier.
And at his head and feet she station'd Scalds
Who in their lives were famous for their sons: ;
These o'er the corpse intoned a plaintive strain,
A dirge; and Nanna and her train replied.
And far into the night they wail'd their dirge ;
But when their souls w^ere satisfied with wail,
They went, and laid them down, and Nanna went
Into an upper chamber, and lay down ;
148 BALDER DEAD,
And Frea seal'd her tired lids with sleep.
And 'twas when night is bordering hard on dawn,
When air is chilliest, and the stars sunk low;
Then Balder's spirit through the gloom drew near,
In garb, in form, in feature as he was,
Alive ; and still the rays were round his head
Which were his glorious mark in Heaven; he stood
Over against the curtain of the bed,
And gazed on Nanna as she slept, and spake : —
"* Poor lamb, thou sleepest, and forgett'st thy v/oe !
Tears stand upon the lashes of thine eyes.
Tears wet the pillow by thy cheek; but thou,
Like a young child, hast cried thyself to sleep.
Sleep on ; I watch thee, and am here to aid.
Alive I kept not far from thee, dear soul!
Neither do I neglect thee now, though dead.
For with to-morrow's dawn the Gods prepare
To gather wood, and build a funeral-pile
Upon my ship, and burn my corpse with fire.
That sad, sole honour of the dead; and thee
They think to burn, and all my choicest weakh,
With me, for thus ordains the common rite.
But it shall not be so; but mild, but swift.
But painless shall a stroke from Frea come,
BALDER DEAD. 149
To cut thy thread of life, and free thy soul,
And they shall burn thy corpse with mine, not thee.
And well I know that by no stroke of death,
Tardy or swift, wouldst thou be loath to die,
So it restored thee, Nanna, to my side,
Whom thou so well hast loved; but I can smoothe
Thy way, and this, at least, my prayers avail.
Yes, and I fain would altogether ward
Death from thy head, and with the Gods in Heaven
Prolong thy life, though not by thee desired —
But right bars this, not only thy desire.
Yet dreary, Nanna, is the life they lead
In that dim world, in Hela's mouldering realm;
And doleful are the ghosts, the troops of dead,
Whom Hela with austere control presides.
For of the race of Gods is no one there,
Save me alone, and Hela, solemn queen;
And all the nobler souls of mortal men
On battle-field have met their death, and now
Feast in Valhalla, in my father's hall;
Only the inglorious sort are there below,
The old, the cowards, and the weak are there —
Men spent by sickness, or obscure decay.
But even there, O Nanna, we might find
I50 BALDER DEAD,
Some solace in each other's look and speech,
Wandering together through that gloomy world,
And talking of the life we led in Heaven,
While we yet lived, among the other Gods.'
He spake, and straight his lineaments began
To fade; and Nanna in her sleep stretch'd out
Her arms towards him with a cry — but he
Mournfully shook his head, and disappear'd.
And as the woodman sees a little smoke
Hang in the air, afield, and disappear.
So Balder faded in the night av/ay.
And Nanna on her bed sank back; but then
Frea, the mother of the Gods, with stroke
Painless and swift, set free her airy soul,
Which took, on Balder's track, the way below;
And instantly the sacred morn appear'd.
BALDER DEAD. 151
2. JOURNEY TO THE DEAD.
T7ORTH from the east, up the ascent of Heaven,
Day drove his courser with the shining mane ;
And in Valhalla, from his gable-perch,
The golden-crested cock began to crow.
Hereafter, in the blackest dead of night,
With shrill and dismal cries that bird shall crow,
Warning the Gods that foes draw nigh to Heaven;
But now he crew at dawn, a cheerful note,
To wake the Gods and Heroes to their tasks.
And all the Gods, and all the Heroes, woke.
And from their beds the Heroes rose, and donn'd
Their arms, and led their horses from the stall,
And mounted them, and in Valhalla's court
Were ranged ; and then the daily fray began.
And all day long they there are hack'd and hewn
'Mid dust, and groans, and limbs lopp'd off, and
But all at night return to Odin's hall
Woundless and fresh ; such lot is theirs in Heaven.
152 BALDER DEAD,
And the Valkyries on their steeds went forth
Toward earth and fights of men; and at their side
Skulda, the youngest of the Nornies, rode;
And over Bifrost, where is Heimdall's watch,
Past Midgard fortress, down to earth they came;
There through some battle-field, where men fall
Their horses fetlock-deep in blood, they ride,
And pick the bravest warriors out for death,
Whom they bring back with them at night to
To glad the Gods, and feast in Odin's hall.
But the Gods went not now, as otherwhile.
Into the tilt-yard, where the Heroes fought,
To feast their eyes with looking on the fray;
Nor did they to their judgment-place repair
By the ash Igdrasil, in Ida's plain.
Where they hold council, and give laws for men.
But they went, Odin first, the rest behind.
To the hall Gladheim, which is built of gold;
Where are in circle ranged twelve golden chairs,
And in the midst one higher, Odin's throne.
There all the Gods in silence sate them down;
And thus the Father of the ages spake: —
BALDER DEAD. 153
* Go quickly, Gods, bring wood to the seashore,
With all, which it beseems the dead to have,
And make a funeral pile on Balder's ship;
On the twelfth day the Gods shall burn his corpse.
But Hermod, thou, take Sleipner, and ride down
To Hela's kingdom, to ask Balder back.'
So said he; and the Gods arose, and took
Axes and ropes, and at their head came Thor,
Shouldering his hammer, which the giants know.
Forth wended they, and drave their steeds before;
And up the dewy mountain-tracks they fared
To the dark forests, in the early dawn;
And up and down, and side and slant they roam'd.
And from the glens all day an echo came
Of crashing falls; for with his hammer Thor
Smote 'mid the rocks the lichen-bearded pines
And burst their roots, while to their tops the Gods
Made fast the woven ropes, and haled them down.
And lopp'd their boughs, and clove them on the
And bound the logs behind their steeds to draw,
And drave them homeward ; and the snorting steeds
Went straining through the crackling brushwood down,
And by the darkling forest-paths the Gods
154 BALDER DEAD.
Follow'd, and on their shoulders carried boughs.
And they came out upon the plain, and pass'd
Asgard, and led their horses to the beach,
And loosed them of their loads on the seashore,
And ranged the wood in stacks by Balder's ship;
And every God went home to his own house.
But when the Gods were to the forest gone,
Hermod led Sleipner from Valhalla forth
And saddled him; before that, Sleipner brook'd
No meaner hand than Odin's on his mane,
On his broad back no lesser rider bore ;
Yet docile now he stood at Hermod's side,
Arching his neck, and glad to be bestrode.
Knowing the God they went to seek, how dear.
But Hermod mounted him, and sadly fared
In silence up the dark untravell'd road
Which branches from the north of Heaven, and went
All day; and daylight waned, and night came on.
And all that night he rode, and journey'd so,
Nine days, nine nights, toward the northern ice.
Through valleys deep-engulph'd, by roaring streams.
And on the tenth morn he beheld the bridge
Which spans with golden arches Giall's stream.
And on the bridge a damsel watching arm'd
BALDER DEAD. 155
In the strait passage, at the further end,
Where the road issues between walling rocks.
Scant space that warder left for passers by; —
But as when cowherds in October drive
Their kine across a snowy mountain-pass
To winter-pasture on the southern side,
And on the ridge a waggon chokes the way,
Wedged in the snow; then painfully the hinds
With goad and shouting urge their cattle past,
Plunging through deep untrodden banks of snow
To right and left, and warm steam fills the air —
So on the bridge that damsel block'd the way,
And question'd Hermod as he came, and said: —
'Who art thou on thy black and fiery horse
Under whose hoofs the bridge o'er Giall's stream
Rumbles and shakes? Tell me thy race and home.
But yestermorn, five troops of dead pass'd by,
Bound on their way below to Hela's realm.
Nor shook the bridge so much as thou alone.
And thou hast flesh and colour on thy cheeks,
Like men who live, and draw the vital air;
Nor look'st thou pale and wan, like men deceased.
Souls bound below, my daily passers here.'
And the fleet-footed Hermod answer'd her: —
156 BALDER DEAD.
' O damsel, Hermod am I call'd, the son
Of Odin; and my high-roof d house is built
Far hence, in Asgard, in the city of Gods;
And Sleipner, Odin's horse, is this I ride.
And I come, sent this road on Balder's track;
Say then, if he hath cross'd thy bridge or no?'
He spake; the warder of the bridge replied: —
* O Hermod, rarely do the feet of Gods
Or of the horses of the Gods resound
Upon my bridge ; and, when they cross, I know.
Balder hath gone this way, and ta'en the road
Below there, to the north, toward Hela's realm.
From here the cold white mist can be discern'd.
Not lit with sun, but through the darksome air
By the dim vapour-blotted light of stars.
Which hangs over the ice where lies the road.
For in that ice are lost those northern streams.
Freezing and ridging in their onward flow,
Which from the fountain of Vergelmer run.
The spring that bubbles up by Hela's throne.
There are the joyless seats, the haunt of ghosts,
Hela's pale swarms ; and there was Balder bound.
Ride on ! pass free ! but he by this is there.'
She spake, and stepp'd aside, and left him room.
BALDER DEAD. 157
And Hermod greeted her, and gallop'd by
Across the bridge; then she took post again.
But northward Hermod rode, the way below;
And o'er a darksome tract, which knows no sun,
But by the blotted light of stars, he fared.
And he came down to Ocean's northern strand,
At the drear ice, beyond the giants' home.
Thence on he journey'd o'er the fields of ice
Still north, until he met a stretching wall
Barring his way, and in the wall a grate.
Then he dismounted, and drew tight the girths,
On the smooth ice, of Sleipner, Odin's horse.
And made him leap the grate, and came within.
And he beheld spread round him Hela's realm,
The plains of Niflheim, where dwell the dead,
And heard the thunder of the streams of Hell.
For near the wall the river of Roaring flows,
Outmost; the others near the centre run —
The Storm, the Abyss, the Howling, and the Pain;
These flow by Hela's throne, and near their spring.
And from the dark flock'd up the shadowy tribes; —
And as the swallows crowd the bulrush-beds
Of some clear river, issuing from a lake,
On autumn-days, before they cross the sea;
158 BALDER LEAD.
And to each bulrush-crest a swallow hangs
Swinging, and others skim the river-streams,
And their quick twittering fills the banks and shores —
So around Hermod swarm'd the twittering ghosts.
Women, and infants, and young men who died
Too soon for fame, with white ungraven shields ;
And old men, known to glory, but their star
Betray'd them, and of wasting age they died,
Not wounds ; yet, dying, they their armour wore,
And now have chief regard in Hela's realm.
Behind flock'd wrangling up a piteous crew,
Greeted of none, disfeatured and forlorn —
Cowards, who were in sloughs interr'd alive;
And round them still the wattled hurdles hung
Wherewith they stamp'd them down, and trod them
To hide their shameful memory from men.
But all he pass'd unhail'd, and reach'd the throne
Of Hela, and saw, near it. Balder crown'd,
And Hela set thereon, with countenance stern;
And thus bespake him first the solemn queen : —
'Unhappy, how hast thou endured to leave
The light, and journey to the cheerless land
Where idly flit about the feeble shades?
How didst thou cross the bridge o'er Giall's stream,
Being alive, and come to Ocean's shore?
Or how o'erleap the grate that bars the wall?'
She spake : but down off Sleipner Hermod sprang,
And fell before her feet, and clasp'd her knees;
And spake, and mild entreated her, and said : —
' O Hela, wherefore should the Gods declare
Their errands to each other, or the ways
They go? the errand and the way is known.
Thou know'st, thou know'st, what grief we have in
For Balder, whom thou hold'st by right below.
Restore him ! for what part fulfils he here ?
Shall he shed cheer over the cheerless seats,
And touch the apathetic ghosts with joy ? —
Not for such end, O queen, thou hold'st thy realm.
For Heaven was Balder born, the city of Gods
And Heroes, where they live in light and joy.
Thither restore him, for his place is there ! '
He spoke ; and grave replied the solemn queen : —
' Hermod, for he thou art, thou son of Heaven !
A strange unlikely errand, sure, is thine.
Do the Gods send to me to make them blest?
Small bliss my race hath of the Gods obtain'd.
i6o BALDER DEAD.
Three mighty children to my father Lok
Did Angerbode, the giantess, bring forth —
Fenris the wolf, the serpent huge, and me.
Of these the serpent in the sea ye cast.
Who since in your despite hath wax'd amain,
And now with gleaming ring enfolds the world.
Me on this cheerless nether world ye threw
And gave me nine unlighted realms to rule.
-While, on his island in the lake, afar,
Made fast to the bored crag, by wile not strength
Subdued, with limber chains lives Fenris bound.
Lok still subsists in Heaven, our father wise.
Your mate, though loathed, and feasts in Odin's hall ;
But him too foes await, and netted snares.
And in a cave a bed of needle-rocks,
And o'er his visage serpents dropping gall.
Yet he shall one day rise, and burst his bonds.
And with himself set us his offspring free.
When he guides Muspel's children to their bourne.
Till then in peril or in pain we live.
Wrought by the Gods — and ask the Gods our aid ?
Howbeit, we abide our day; till then,
We do not as some feebler haters do —
Seek to afflict our foes with petty pangs.
BALDER DEAD. i6r
Helpless to better us, or ruin them.
Come then ! if Balder was so dear beloved,
And this is true, and such a loss is Heaven's —
Hear, how to Heaven may Balder be restored.
Show me through all the world the signs of grief!
Fails but one thing to grieve, here Balder stops !
Let all that lives and moves upon the earth
Weep him, and all that is without life weep;
Let Gods, men, brutes, beweep him; plants and
So shall I know the lost was dear indeed.
And bend my heart, and give him back to Heaven.'
She spake ; and Hermod answer'd her, and said : —
* Hela, such as thou say'st, the terms shall be.
But come, declare me this, and truly tell :
]\Iay I, ere I depart, bid Balder hail,
Or is it here withheld to greet the dead.'''
He spake ; and straightway Hela answered him : —
' Hermod, greet Balder if thou wilt, and hold
Converse ; his speech remains, though he be dead.'
And straight to Balder Hermod turn'd, and spake : —
' Even in the abode of death, O Balder, hail !
Thou hear'st, if hearing, like as speech, is thine.
The terms of thy releasement hence to Heaven;
VOL. I. M
i62 BALDER DEAD.
Fear nothing but that all shall be fulfill'd.
For not unmindful of thee are the Gods,
Who see the light, and blest in Asgard dwell;
Even here they seek thee out, in Hela's realm.
And sure of all the happiest far art thou
Who ever have been known in earth or Heaven ;
Alive, thou wast of Gods the most beloved,
And now thou sittest crown'd by Hela's side.
Here, and hast honour among all the dead.'
He spake; and Balder utter'd him reply,
But feebly, as a voice far off; he said : —
' Hermod the nimble, gild me not my death !
Better to live a serf, a captured man.
Who scatters rushes in a master's hall,
Than be a crown'd king here, and rule the dead.
And now I count not of these terms as safe
To be fulfill'd, nor my return as sure,
Though I be loved, and many mourn my death ;
For double-minded ever was the seed
Of Lok, and double are the gifts they give.
Howbeit, report thy message; and therewith,
To Odin, to my father, take this ring,
Memorial of me, whether saved or no;
And tell the Heaven-born Gods how thou hast seen
BALDER DEAD, 163
Me sitting here below by Hela's side,
Crown'd, having honour among all the dead/
He spake, and raised his hand, and gave the ring.
And with inscrutable regard the queen
Of Hell beheld them, and the ghosts stood dumb.
But Hermod took the ring, and yet once more
Kneel'd and did homage to the solemn queen;
Then mounted Sleipner, and set forth to ride
Back, through the astonish'd tribes of dead, to
And to the wall he came, and found the grate
Lifted, and issued on the fields of ice.
And o'er the ice he fared to Ocean's strand.
And up from thence, a wet and misty road,
To the arm'd damsel's bridge, and Giall's stream.
Worse was that way to go than to return,
For him ; — for others all return is barr'd.
Nine days he took to go, two to return.
And on the twelfth morn saw the light of Heaven.
And as a traveller in the early dawn
To the steep edge of some great valley comes.
Through which a river flows, and sees, beneath,
Clouds of white rolling vapours fill the vale,
But o'er them, on the farther slope, descries
164 BALDER DEAD.
Vineyards, and crofts, and pastures, bright with sun-
So Hermod, o'er the fog between, saw Heaven.
And Sleipner snorted, for he smelt the air
Of Heaven ; and mightily, as wing'd, he flew.
And Hermod saw the towers of Asgard rise;
And he drew near, and heard no living voice
In Asgard ; and the golden halls were dumb.
Then Hermod knew what labour held the Gods;
And through the empty streets he rode, and pass'd
Under the gate-house to the sands, and found
The Gods on the seashore by Balder's ship.
BALDER DEAD, 165
'"PHE Gods held talk together, group'd in knots,
Round Balder's corpse, which they had thither
And Hermod came down towards them from the gate.
And Lok, the father of the serpent, first
Beheld him come, and to his neighbour spake : —
' See, here is Hermod, who comes single back
From Hell; and shall I tell thee how he seems?
Like as a farmer, who hath lost his dog.
Some morn, at market, in a crowded town —
Through many streets the poor beast runs in vain,
And follows this man after that, for hours;
And, late at evening, spent and panting, falls
Before a stranger's threshold, not his home.
With flanks a-tremble, and his slender tongue
Hangs quivering out between his dust-smear'd jaws,
And piteously he eyes the passers by;
But home his master comes to his own farm,
Far in the country, wondering where he is —
1 66 BALDER DEAD,
So Hermod comes to-day unfollow'd home.'
And straight his neighbour, moved with wrath,
repHed : —
' Deceiver ! fair in form, but false in heart !
Enemy, mocker, whom, though Gods, we hate —
Peace, lest our father Odin hear thee gibe !
Would I might see him snatch thee in his hand,
And bind thy carcase, like a bale, with cords,
And hurl thee in a lake, to sink or swim !
If clear from plotting Balder's death, to swim;
But deep, if thou d^visedst it, to drown.
And perish, against fate, before thy day/
So they two soft to one another spake.
But Odin look'd toward the land, and saw
His messenger; and he stood forth, and cried.
And Hermod came, and leapt from Sleipner down.
And in his father's hand put Sleipner's rein.
And greeted Odin and the Gods, and said : —
' Odin, my father, and ye, Gods of Heaven !
Lo, home, having perform'd your will, I come.
Into the joyless kingdom have I been.
Below, and look'd upon the shadowy tribes
Of ghosts, and communed with their solemn queen,
And to your prayer she sends you this reply :
BALDER DEAD. 167
Show her through all the world the signs of grief I
Fails hit one thing to grieve, there Balder stops I
Let Gods, men, brutes, beweep him ; plants ajid stones I
So shall she know your loss was dear indeed,
And bend her heart, and give you Balder back!
He spoke; and all the Gods to Odin look'd;
And straight the Father of the ages said : —
'Ye Gods, these terms may keep another day.
But now, put on your arms, and mount your steeds,
And in procession all come near, and weep
Balder; for that is what the dead desire.
When ye enough have wept, then build a pile
Of the heap'd wood, and burn his corpse with fire
Out of our sight; that we may turn from grief.
And lead, as erst, our daily life in Heaven.'
He spoke, and the Gods arm'd ; and Odin donn'd
His dazzling corslet and his helm of gold,
And led the way on Sleipner; and the rest
Follow'd, in tears, their father and their king.
And thrice in arms around the dead they rode.
Weeping ; the sands were wetted, and their arms.
With their thick-falling tears — so good a friend
They mourn'd that day, so bright, so loved a God.
And Odin came, and laid his kingly hands
1 68 BALDER DEAD.
On Balder's breast, and thus began the wail: —
'Farewell, O Balder, bright and loved, my son!
In that great day, the twilight of the Gods,
When Muspel's children shall beleaguer Heaven,
Then we shall miss thy counsel and thy arm.'
Thou camest near the next, O warrior Thor !
Shouldering thy hammer, in thy chariot drawn.
Swaying the long-hair'd goats with silver'd rein;
And over Balder's corpse these words didst say : —
'Brother, thou dwellest in the darksome land,
And talkest with the feeble tribes of ghosts.
Now, and I know not how they prize thee there —
But here, I know, thou wilt be miss'd and mourn'd.
For haughty spirits and high wraths are rife
Among the Gods and Heroes here in Heaven,
As among those whose joy and work is war; .
And daily strifes arise, and angry words.
But from thy lips, O Balder, night or day.
Heard no one ever an injurious word
To God or Hero, but thou keptest back
The others, labouring to compose their brawls.
Be ye then kind, as Balder too was kind !
For we lose him, who smoothed all strife in Heaven.'
He spake, and all the Gods assenting wail'd.
BALDER DEAD, 169
And Freya next came nigh, with golden tears;
The loveliest Goddess she in Heaven, by all
Most honour'd after Frea, Odin's wife.
Her long ago the wandering Oder took
To mate, but left her to roam distant lands;
Since then she seeks him, and weeps tears of gold.
Names hath she many; Vanadis on earth
They call her, Freya is her name in Heaven ;
She in her hands took Balder's head, and spake : —
'Balder, my brother, thou art gone a road
Unknown and long, and haply on that way
My long-lost wandering Oder thou hast met,
For in the paths of Heaven he is not found.
Oh, if it be so, tell him what thou wast
To his neglected wife, and what ,he is,
And wring his heart with shame, to hear thy word !
For he, my husband, left me here to pine,
Not long a wife, when his unquiet heart
First drove him from me into distant lands ;
Since then I vainly seek him through the world,
And weep from shore to shore my golden tears,
But neither god nor mortal heeds my pain.
Thou only. Balder, wast for ever kind,
To take my hand, and wipe my tears, and say :
I 'JO BALDER DEAD.
Weep not, Freya, weep no golde?t tears I
One day the wandering Oder will return,
Or thou wilt find him in thy faithful search
On some great road, or resting in an inn,
Or at a ford, or sleeping by a tree.
So Balder said; — but Oder, well I know,
My truant Oder I shall see no more
To the world's end; and Balder now is gone,
And I am left uncomforted in Heaven.'
She spake; and all the Goddesses bewail'd.
Last, from among the Heroes one came near.
No God, but of the hero-troop the chief —
Regner, who swept the northern sea with fleets,
And ruled o'er Denmark and the heathy isles,
Living; but Ella captured him and slew; —
A king, whose fame then fill'd the vast of Heaven,
Now time obscures it, and men's later deeds.
He last approach'd the corpse, and spake, and said : —
' Balder, there yet are many Scalds in Heaven
Still left, and that chief Scald, thy brother Brage,
Whom we may bid to sing, though thou art gone.
And all these gladly, while we drink, we hear.
After the feast is done, in Odin's hall ;
But they harp ever on one string, and wake
BALDER DEAD. 171
Remembrance in our soul of wars alone,
Such as on earth we valiantly have waged,
And blood, and ringing blows, and violent death.
But when thou sangest, Balder, thou didst strike
Another note, and, like a bird in spring.
Thy voice of joyance minded us, and youth.
And wife, and children, and our ancient home.
Yes, and I, too, remember'd then no more
My dungeon, where the serpents stung me dead,
Nor Ella's victorv on the Eno^lish coast —
But I heard Thora laugh in Gothland Isle,
And saw my shepherdess, Aslauga, tend
Her flock along the white Norwegian beach.
Tears started to mine eyes with yearning joy.
Therefore with grateful heart I mourn thee dead.'
So Regner spake, and all the Heroes groan'd.
But now the sun had pass'd the height of Heaven,
And soon had all that day been spent in wail;
But then the Father of the ages said : —
' Ye Gods, there well may be too much of wail !
Bring now the gather'd wood to Balder's ship;
Heap on the deck the logs, and build the pyre.'
But when the Gods and Heroes heard, they brought
The wood to Balder's ship, and built a pile,
172 BALDER DEAD.
Full the deck's breadth, and lofty; then the corpse
Of Balder on the highest top they laid,
With Nanna on his right, and on his left
Hoder, his brother, whom his own hand slew.
And they set jars of wine and oil to lean
Against the bodies, and stuck torches near,
Splinters of pine-wood, soak'd with turpentine;
And brought his arms and gold, and all his stuff,
And slew the dogs who at his table fed.
And his horse, Balder's horse, whom most he loved,
And threw them on the pyre, and Odin threw
A last choice gift thereon, his golden ring.
The mast they fixt, and hoisted up the sails,
Then they put fire to the wood ; and Thor
Set his stout shoulder hard against the stern
To push the ship through the thick sand; — sparks
From the deep trench she plough'd, so strong a God
Furrow'd it; and the water gurgled in.
And the ship floated on the waves, and rock'd.
But in the hills a strong east-wind arose,
And came down moaning to the sea ; first squalls
Ran black o'er the sea's face, then steady rush'd
The breeze, and fill'd the sails, and blew the fire.
BALDER DEAD. 173
And wreathed in smoke the ship stood out to sea.
Soon with a roaring rose the mighty fire,
And the pile crackled; and between the logs
Sharp quivering tongues of flame shot out, and leapt,
Curling and darting, higher, until they lick'd
The summit of the pile, the dead, the mast.
And ate the shrivelling sails; but still the ship
Drove on, ablaze above her hull with fire.
And the Gods stood upon the beach, and gazed.
And while they gazed, the sun went lurid down
Into the smoke-wrapt sea, and night came on.
Then the wind fell, with night, and there was calm;
But through the dark they watch'd the bm-ning ship
Still carried o'er the distant waters on.
Farther and farther, like an eye of fire.
And long, in the far dark, blazed Balder's pile ;
But fainter, as the stars rose high, it flared;
The bodies were consumed, ash choked the pile.
And as, in a decaying winter-fire,
A charr'd log, falling, makes a shower of sparks —
So with a shower of sparks the pile fell in.
Reddening the sea around; and all was dark.
But the Gods went by starlight up the shore
To Asgard, and sate down in Odin's hall
At table, and the funeral-feast began.
All night they ate the boar Serimner's flesh,
And from their horns, with silver rimm'd, drank
Silent, and waited for the sacred morn.
And morning over all the world was spread.
Then from their loathed feast the Gods arose,
And took their horses, and set forth to ride
O'er the bridge Bifrost, where is Heimdall's watch.
To the ash Igdrasil, and Ida's plain.
Thor came on foot, the rest on horseback rode.
And they found Mimir sitting by his fount
Of wisdom, which beneath the ashtree springs;
And saw the Nornies watering the roots
Of that world-shadowing tree with honey-dew.
There came the Gods, and sate them down on stones ;
And thus the Father of the ages said : —
'Ye Gods, the terms ye know, which Hermod;
Accept them or reject them ! both have grounds.
Accept them, and they bind us, unfulfiU'd,
To leave for ever Balder in the grave,
An unrecover'd prisoner, shade with shades.
But how, ye say, should the fulfilment fail? —
BALDER DEAD. 175
Smooth sound the terms, and light to be fulfiU'd;
For dear-beloved was Balder while he lived
In Heaven and earth, and who would grudge him
But from the traitorous seed of Lok they come,
These terms, and I suspect some hidden fraud.
Bethink ye, Gods, is there no other way ? —
Speak, were not this a way, the way for Gods?
If I, if Odin, clad in radiant arms,
Mounted on Sleipner, with the warrior Thor
Drawn in his car beside me, and my sons,
All the strong brood of Heaven, to swell my train,
Should make irruption into Hela's realm,
And set the fields of gloom ablaze with light,
And bring in triumph Balder back to Heaven?'
He spake, and his fierce sons applauded loud.
But Frea, mother of the Gods, arose.
Daughter and wife of Odin ; thus she said : —
' Odin, thou whirlwind, what a threat is this !
Thou threatenest what transcends thy might, even
For of all powers the mightiest far art thou.
Lord over men on earth, and Gods in Heaven;
Yet even from thee thyself hath been withheld
176 BALDER DEAD.
One thing — to undo what thou thyself hast ruled.
For all which hath been fixt, was fixt by thee.
In the beginning, ere the Gods were born,
Before the Heavens were builded, thou didst slay
The giant Ymir, whom the abyss brought forth.
Thou and thy brethren fierce, the sons of Bor,
And cast his trunk to choke the abysmal void.
But of his flesh and members thou didst build
The earth and Ocean, and above them Heaven.
And from the flaming world, where Muspel reigns,
Thou sent'st and fetched'st fire, and madest lights.
Sun, moon, and stars, which thou hast hung in
Dividing clear the paths of night and day.
And Asgard thou didst build, and Midgard fort;
Then me thou mad'st; of us the Gods were born.
Last, walking by the sea, thou foundest spars
Of wood, and framed'st men, who till the earth,
Or on the sea, the field of pirates, sail.
And all the race of Ymir thou didst drown,
Save one, Bergelmer; — he on shipboard fled
Thy deluge, and from him the giants sprang.
But all that brood thou hast removed far off,
And set by Ocean's utmost marge to dwell.
BALDER DEAD, 177
But Hela into Niflheim thou threw' st,
And gav'st her nine unhghted worlds to rule,
A queen, and empire over all the dead.
That empire wilt thou now invade, light up
Her darkness, from her grasp a subject tear? —
Try it ; but I, for one, will not applaud.
Nor do I merit, Odin, thou should'st slight
Me and my words, though thou be first in Heaven;
For I too am a Goddess, born of thee,
Thine eldest, and of me the Gods are sprung;
And all that is to come I know, but lock
In mine own breast, and have to none reveal'd.
Come then ! since Hela holds by right her prey,
But offers terms for his release to Heaven,
Accept the chance; thou canst no more obtain.
Send through the world thy messengers; entreat
All living and unliving things to weep
For Balder; if thou haply thus may'st melt
Hela, and win the loved one back to Heaven.'
She spake, and on her face let fall her veil.
And bow'd her head, and sate with folded hands.
Nor did the all-ruling Odin slight her word;
Straightway he spake, and thus address'd the Gods :
'Go quickly forth through all the world, and pray
VOL. I. N
178 BALDER DEAD,
All living and unliving things to weep
Balder, if haply he may thus be won.'
When the Gods heard, they straight arose, and took
Their horses, and rode forth through all the world.
North, south, east, west, they struck, and roam'd
Entreating all things to weep Balder's death.
And all that lived, and all without life, wept.
And as in winter, when the frost breaks up,
At winter's end, before the spring begins.
And a warm west-wind blows, and thaw sets in —
After an hour a dripping sound is heard
In all the forests, and the soft-strewn snow
Under the trees is dibbled thick with holes,
And from the boughs the snowloads shuffle down;
And, in fields sloping to the south, dark plots
Of grass peep out amid surrounding snow,
And widen, and the peasant's heart is glad —
So through the world was heard a dripping noise
Of all things weeping to bring Balder back;
And there fell joy upon the Gods to hear.
But Hermod rode with Niord, whom he took
To show hirn spits and beaches of the sea
Far off, where some unwarn'd might fail to weep —
BALDER DEAD. 179
Niord, the God of storms, whom fishers know;
Not born in Heaven — he was in Vanheim rear'd.
With men, but lives a hostage with the Gods;
He knows each frith, and every rocky creek
Fringed with dark pines, and sands where seafowl
scream ; —
They two scour'd every coast, and all things wept.
And they rode home together, through the wood
Of Jarnvid, which to east of Midgard lies
Bordering the giants, where the trees are iron;
There in the wood before a cave they came
Where sate, in the cave's mouth, a skinny hag.
Toothless and old ; she gibes the passers by.
Thok is she call'd, but now Lok wore her shape;
She greeted them the first, and laugh'd, and said: —
*Ye Gods, good lack, is it so dull in Heaven,
That ye come pleasuring to Thok's iron wood.?
Lovers of change ye are, fastidious sprites.
Look, as in some boor's yard a sweet-breath'd cow.
Whose manger is stuff'd full of good fresh hay,
Snuffs at it daintily, and stoops her head
To chew the straw, her Htter, at her feet —
So ye grow squeamish, Gods, and sniff at Heaven ! '
She spake ; but Hermod answer'd her and said : —
i8o BALDER DEAD.
'Thok, not for gibes we come, we come for tears.
Balder is dead, and Hela holds her prey,
But will restore, if all things give him tears.
Begrudge not thine ! to all was Balder dear.'
Then, with a louder laugh, the hag replied : —
*Is Balder dead.? and do ye come for tears?
Thok with dry eyes will weep o'er Balder's pyre.
Weep him all other things, if weep they will —
I weep him not ! let Hela keep her prey.'
She spake, and to the cavern's depth she fled,
Mocking; and Hermod knew their toil was vain.
And as seafaring men, who long have wrought
In the great deep for gain, at last come home,
And towards evening see the headlands rise
Of their dear country, and can plain descry
A fire of wither'd furze which boys have lit
Upon the cliffs, or smoke of burning weeds
Out of a till'd field inland; — then the wind
Catches them, and drives out again to sea;
And they go long days tossing up and down
Over the grey sea ridges, and the glimpse
Of port they had makes bitterer far their toil —
So the Gods' cross was bitterer for their joy.
Then, sad at heart, to Niord Hermod spake : —
BALDER DEAD. i8i
' It is the accuser Lok, who flouts us all.
Ride back, and tell in Heaven this heavy news;
I must again below, to Hela's realm.'
He spoke; and Niord set forth back to Heaven.
But northward Hermod rode, the way below,
The way he knew; and traversed Giall's stream.
And down to Ocean groped, and cross'd the ice.
And came beneath the wall, and found the grate
Still lifted; well was his return foreknown.
And once more Hermod saw around him spread
The joyless plains, and heard the streams of Hell.
But as he enter'd, on the extremest bound
Of Niflheim, he saw one ghost come near,
Hovering, and stopping oft, as if afraid —
Hoder, the unhappy, whom his own hand slew.
And Hermod look'd, and knew his brother's ghost,
And call'd him by his name, and sternly said: —
' Hoder, ill-fated, blind in heart and eyes !
Why tarriest thou to plunge thee in the gulph
Of the deep inner gloom, but flittest here.
In twilight, on the lonely verge of Hell,
Far from the other ghosts, and Hela's throne.?
Doubtless thou fearest to meet Balder's voice,
Thy brother, whom through folly thou didst slay.'
1 82 BALDER DEAD.
He spoke; but Hoder answer'd him, and said: —
'Hermod the nimble, dost thou still pursue
The unhappy with reproach, even in the grave?
For this I died, and fled beneath the gloom.
Not daily to endure abhorring Gods,
Nor with a hateful presence cumber Heaven;
And canst thou not, even here, pass pitying by?
No less than Balder have I lost the light
Of Heaven, and communion with my kin ;
I too had once a wife, and once a child,
And substance, and a golden house in Heaven —
But all I left of my own act, and fled
Below, and dost thou hate me even here?
Balder upbraids me not, nor hates at all,
Though he has cause, have any cause ; but he,
When that with downcast looks I hither came,
Stretch'd forth his hand, and with benignant voice,
Welcome, he said, t/ there be welcome here,
Brother and fellow-sport of Lok with me !
And not to offend thee, Hermod, nor to force
My hated converse on thee, came I up
From the deep gloom, where I wiU now return;
But earnestly I long'd to hover near,
Not too far off, when that thou camest by;
BALDER DEAD. 183
To feel the presence of a brother God,
And hear the passage of a horse of Heaven,
For the last time — for here thou com'st no more/
He spake, and turn'd to go to the inner gloom.
But Hermod stay'd him with mild words, and said : —
' Thou doest well to chide me, Hoder blind !
Truly thou say'st, the planning guilty mind
Was Lok's; the unwitting hand alone was thine.
But Gods are Hke the sons of men in this —
When they have woe, they blame the nearest cause.
Howbeit stay, and be appeased ! and tell :
Sits Balder still in pomp by Hela's side.
Or is he mingled with the unnumber'd dead?'
And the blind Hoder answer'd him and spake : —
' His place of state remains by Hela's side,
But empty; for his wife, for Nanna came
Lately below, and join'd him; and the pair
Frequent the still recesses of the realm
Of Hela, and hold converse undisturb'd.
But they too, doubtless, will have breathed the balm
Which floats before a visitant from Heaven,
And have drawn upward to this verge of Hell.'
He spake ; and, as he ceased, a puff of wind
RoU'd heavily the leaden mist aside
1 84 BALDER DEAD.
Round where they stood, and they beheld two forms
Make toward them o'er the stretching cloudy plain.
And Hermod straight perceived them, who they were,
Balder and Nanna; and to Balder said: —
' Balder, too truly thou foresaw' st a snare 1
Lok triumphs still, and Hela keeps her prey.
No more to Asgard shalt thou come, nor lodge
In thy own house, Breidablik, nor enjoy
The love all bear toward thee, nor train up
Forset, thy son, to be beloved like thee.
Here must thou lie, and wait an endless age.
Therefore for the last time, O Balder, hail!'
He spake ; and Balder answer'd him, and said : —
' Hail and farewell ! for here thou com'st no more.
Yet mourn not for me, Hermod, when thou sitt'st
In Heaven, nor let the other Gods lament,
As wholly to be pitied, quite forlorn.
For Nanna hath rejoin'd me, who, of old,
In Heaven, was seldom parted from my side ;
And still the acceptance follows me, which crown'd
My former life, and cheers me even here.
The iron frown of Hela is relax'd
When I draw nigh, and the wan tribes of dead
Love me, and gladly bring for my award
BALDER DEAD. 185
Their ineffectual feuds and feeble hates —
Shadows of hates, but they distress them still/
And the fleet-footed Hermod made reply : —
'Thou hast then all the solace death allows,
Esteem and function ; and so far is well.
Yet here thou liest, Balder, underground,
Rusting for ever; and the years roll on.
The generations pass, the ages grow,
And bring us nearer to the final day
When from the south shall march the fiery band
And cross the bridge of Heaven, with Lok for guide,
And Fenris at his heel with broken chain ;
While from the east the giant Rymer steers
His ship, and the great serpent makes to land ;
And all are marshall'd in one flaming square
Against the Gods, upon the plains of Heaven.
I mourn thee, that thou canst not help us then.'
He spake ; but Balder answer'd him, and said : —
' Mourn not for me ! Mourn, Hermod, for the Gods ;
Mourn for the men on earth, the Gods in Heaven,
Who live, and with their eyes shall see that day!
The day will come, when fall shall Asgard's towers,
And Odin, and his sons, the seed of Heaven;
But what were I, to save them in that hour?
1 86 BALDER DEAD.
If Strength might save them, could not Odin save,
My father, and his pride, the warrior Thor,
Vidar the silent, the impetuous Tyr? —
I, what were I, when these can nought avail?
Yet, doubtless, when the day of battle comes,
And the two hosts are marshall'd, and in Heaven
The golden-crested cock shall sound alarm,
And his black brother-bird from hence reply,
And bucklers clash, and spears begin to pour —
Longing will stir within my breast, though vain.
But not to me so grievous, as, I know,
To other Gods it were, is my enforced
. Absence from fields where I could nothing aid ;
For I am long since weary of your storm
Of carnage, and find, Hermod, in your life
Something too much of war and broils, which make
Life one perpetual fight, a bath of blood.
Mine eyes are dizzy with the arrowy hail;
Mine ears are stunn'd with blows, and sick for calm.
Inactive therefore let me lie, in gloom.
Unarm' d, inglorious ; I attend the course
Of ages, and my late return to light,
In times less alien to a spirit mild,
In new-recover'd seats, the happier day/
BALDER DEAD, 187
He spake ; and the fleet Hermod thus replied : —
' Brother, what seats are these, what happier day ?
Tell me, that I may ponder it when gone.'
And the ray-crowned Balder answer'd him : —
'Far to the south, beyond the blue, there spreads
Another Heaven, the boundless — no one yet
Hath reach'd it; there hereafter shall arise
The second Asgard, with another name.
Thither, when o'er this present earth and Heavens
The tempest of the latter days hath swept.
And they from sight have disappear'd, and sunk,
Shall a small remnant of the Gods repair;
Hoder and I shall join them from the grave.
There re-assembling we shall see emerge
From the bright Ocean at our feet an earth
More fresh, more verdant than the last, with fruits
Self-springing, and a seed of man preserved,
Who then shall live in peace, as now in war.
But we in Heaven shall find again with joy
The ruin'd palaces of Odin, seats
Familiar, halls where we have supp'd of old;
Re-enter them with wonder, never fill
Our eyes with gazing, and rebuild with tears.
And we shall tread once more the well-known plain
1 88 BALDER DEAD.
Of Ida, and among the grass shall find
The golden dice wherewith we play'd of yore;
And that will bring to mind the former life
And pastime of the Gods, the wise discourse
Of Odin, the delights of other days.
Hermod, pray that thou may'st join us then!
Such for the future is my hope; meanwhile,
1 rest the thrall of Hela, and endure
Death, and the gloom which round me even now
Thickens, and to its inner gulph recalls.
Farewell ! for longer speech is not allow'd.'
He spoke, and waved farewell, and gave his hand
To Nanna; and she gave their brother blind
Her hand, in turn, for guidance ; and the three
Departed o'er the cloudy plain, and soon
Faded from sight into the interior gloom.
But Hermod stood beside his drooping horse,
Mute, gazing after them in tears ; and fain.
Fain had he follow'd their receding steps,
Though they to death were bound, and he to
Then; but a power he could not break withheld.
And as a stork which idle boys have trapp'd,
And tied him in a yard, at autumn sees
BALDER DEAD. 189
Flocks of his kind pass flying o'er his head
To warmer lands, and coasts that keep the sun; —
He strains to join their flight, and from his shed
Follows them with a long complaining cry —
So Hermod gazed, and yearn'd to join his kin.
At last he sigh'd, and set forth back to Heaven.
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT.^
T S she not come ? The messenger was sure.
Prop me upon the pillows once again —
Raise me, my page ! this cannot long endure.
— Christ, what a night ! how the sleet whips the pane !
What lights will those out to the northward be.?
The lanterns of the fishing-boats at sea.
Soft — who is that, stands by the dying fire?
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT. 191
Ah ! not the Iseult I desire.
What Knight is this so weak and pale,
Though the locks are yet brown on his noble head,
Propt on pillows in his bed,
Gazing seaward for the light
Of some ship that fights the gale
On this wild December night?
Over the sick man's feet is spread
A dark green forest-dress.
A gold harp leans against the bed,
Ruddy in the fire's light.
I know him by his harp of gold.
Famous in Arthur's court of old;
I know him by his forest-dress —
The peerless hunter, harper, knight,
Tristram of Lyoness.
What Lady is this, whose silk attire
Gleams so rich in the light of the fire?
The ringlets on her shoulders lying
In their flitting lustre vying
192 TRISTRAM AND ISEULT.
With the clasp of burnish'd gold
Which her heavy robe doth hold.
Her looks are mild, her fingers slight
As the driven snow are white;
But her cheeks are sunk and pale.
Is it that the bleak sea-gale
Beating from the Atlantic sea
On this coast of Brittany,
Nips too keenly the sweet flower?
Is it that a deep fatigue
Hath come on her, a chilly fear,
Passing all her youthful hour
Spinning with her maidens here,
Listlessly through the window-bars
Gazing seawards many a league
From her lonely shore-built tower,
While the knights are at the wars ?
Or, perhaps, has her young heart
Felt already some deeper smart.
Of those that in secret the heart-strings rive,
Leaving her sunk and pale, though fair.-*
Who is this snowdrop by the sea? —
I know her by her mildness rare,
Her snow-white hands, her golden hair;
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT. 193
I know her by her rich silk dress,
And her fragile loveliness —
The sweetest Christian soul alive,
Iseult of Brittany.
Iseult of Brittany? — but where
Is that other Iseult fair,
That proud, first Iseult, Cornwall's queen ?
She, whom Tristram's ship of yore
From Ireland to Cornwall bore.
To Tyntagel, to the side
Of King Marc, to be his bride ?
She who, as they voyaged, quaff' d
With Tristram that spiced magic draught,
Which since then for ever rolls
Through their blood, and binds their souls,
Working love, but working teen? —
There were two Iseults who did sway
Each her hour of Tristram's day j
But one possess'd his waning time,
The other his resplendent prime.
Behold her here, the patient flower.
Who possess'd his darker hour !
Iseult of the Snow- White Hand
VOL. I. o
194 TRISTRAM AND ISEULT.
Watches pale by Tristram's bed.
She is here who had his gloom,
Where are thou who hadst his bloom?
One such kiss as those of yore
Might thy dying knight restore !
Does the love-draught work no more?
Art thou cold, or false, or dead,
Iseult of Ireland?
Loud howls the wind, sharp patters the rain,
And the knight sinks back on his pillows
He is weak with fever and pain,
And his spirit is not clear.
Hark ! he mutters in his sleep,
As he wanders far from here.
Changes place and time of year.
And his closed eye doth sweep
O'er some fair unwintry sea.
Not this fierce Atlantic deep,
As he mutters brokenly: —
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT. 195
The calm sea shines, loose hang the vessel's sails —
Before us are the sweet green fields of Wales,
And overhead the cloudless sky of May. —
' Ah, would I were in those green fields at play,
Not pent on ship-hoard this delicious day !
Tristram, I pray thee, of thy courtesy,
Reach me my golden cup that stands hy thee,
But pledge me in it first for courtesy. — '
Ha ! dost thou start ? are thy lips blanch' d like mine ?
Child, 'tis no water this, 'tis poison'd wine !
Ah, sweet angels, let him dream !
Keep his eyelids! let him seem
Not this fever-wasted wight
Thinn'd and paled before his time,
But the brilliant youthful knight
In the glory of his prime,
Sitting in the gilded barge,
At thy side, thou lovely charge,
196 TRISTRAM AND ISEULT,
Bending gaily o'er thy hand,
Iseult of Ireland !
And she too, that princess fair,
If her bloom be now less rare,
Let her have her youth again —
Let her be as she was then !
Let her have her proud dark eyes,
And her petulant quick replies.
Let her sweep her dazzling hand
With its gesture of command,
And shake back her raven hair
With the old imperious air !
As of old, so let her be.
That first Iseult, princess bright,
Chatting with her youthful knight
As he steers her o'er the sea,
Quitting at her father's will
The green isle where she was bred,
And her bower in Ireland,
For the surge-beat Cornish strand;
Where the prince whom she must wed
Dwells on loud Tyntagel's hill,
High above the sounding sea.
And that golden cup her mother
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT, 197
Gave her, that her future lord,
Gave her, that King Marc and she,
Might drink it on their marriage- day,
And for ever love each other —
Let her, as she sits on board,
Ah ! sweet saints, unwittingly !
See it shine, and take it up,
And to Tristram laughing say :
' Sir Tristram, of thy courtesy,
Pledge me in my golden cup !'
Let them drink it — let their hands
Tremble, and their cheeks be flame.
As they feel the fatal bands
Of a love they dare not name.
With a wild delicious pain,
Twine about their hearts again !
Let the early summer be
Once more round them, and the sea
Blue, and o'er its mirror kind
Let the breath of the May-wind,
Wandering through their drooping sails.
Die on the green fields of Wales !
Let a dream like this restore
What his eye must see no more !
198 TRISTRAM AND ISEULT.
Chill blows the wind, the pleasaunce-walks are drear —
Madcap, what jest was this, to meet me here ?
Were feet like those made for so wild a way?
The southern winter -parlour, by my fay.
Had been the Hkeliest trysting-place to-day ! —
' Tristram ! — 7iay, nay — thou must not take my hand ! —
Tristram ! — sweet love I — we are betray d — out-planrHd.
Fly — save thyself- — save me! — / dare not stay! —
One last kiss first! — "7z!? vain — to horse — away!'
Ah! sweet saints, his dream doth move
Faster surely than it should,
From the fever in his blood !
All the spring-time of his love
Is already gone and past.
And instead thereof is seen
Its winter, which endureth still —
Tyntagel on its surge-beat hill,
The pleasaunce-walks, the weeping queen,
The flying leaves, the straining blast.
And that long, wild kiss — their last.
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT. 199
And this rough December-night
And his burning fever-pain
Mingle with his hurrying dream,
Till they rule it, till he seem
The press'd fugitive again,
The love-desperate banish'd knight
With a fire in his brain
Flying o'er the stormy main.
— Whither does he wander now?
Haply in his dreams the wind
Wafts him here, and lets him find
The lovely orphan child again
In her casde by the coast;
The youngest, fairest chatelaine,
That this realm of France can boast,
Our snowdrop by the Atlantic sea,
Iseult of Brittany.
And — for through the haggard air.
The stain'd arms, the matted hair
Of that stranger-knight ill-starr'd.
There gleam'd something, which recall'd
The Tristram who in better days
Was Launcelot's guest at Joyous Gard —
Welcomed here, and here install'd,
200 TRISTRAM AND ISEULT,
Tended of his fever here,
Haply he seems again to move
His young guardian's heart with love;
In his exiled loneliness,
In his stately, deep distress.
Without a word, without a tear.
— Ah ! 'tis well he should retrace
His tranquil Hfe in this lone place;
His gentle bearing at the side
Of his timid youthful bride;
His long rambles by the shore
On winter-evenings, when the roar
Of the near waves came, sadly grand,
Through the dark, up the drown'd sand.
Or his endless reveries
In the woods, where the gleams play
On the grass under the trees.
Passing the long summer's day
Idle as a mossy stone
In the forest-depths alone,
The chase neglected, and his hound
Couch'd beside him on the ground.
— Ah! what trouble's on his brow-f*
Hither let him wander now;
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT. 201
Hither, to the quiet hours
Pass'd among these heaths of ours
By the grey Atlantic sea;
Hours, if not of ecstasy,
From violent anguish surely free !
All red with blood the whirling river flows.
The wide plain rings, the dazed air throbs with blows.
Upon us are the chivalry of Rome —
Their spears are down, their steeds are bathed in foam.
' Up, Tristram, up,' men cry, 'thou moonstruck knight !
What foul fiend rides thee? On into the fight!'
— Above the din her voice is in my ears;
I see her form glide through the crossing spears. —
Ah ! he wanders forth again ;
We cannot keep him; now, as then.
There's a secret in his breast
Which will never let him rest.
These musing fits in the green wood
202 TRISTRAM AND ISEULT.
They cloud the brain, they dull the blood.
— His sword is sharp, his horse is good;
Beyond the mountains will he see
The famous towns of Italy,
And label with the blessed sign
The heathen Saxons on the Rhine.
At Arthur's side he fights once more
With the Roman Emperor.
There's many a gay knight where he goes
Will help him to forget his care;
The march, the leaguer, Heaven's blithe air,
The neighing steeds, the ringing blows —
Sick pining comes not where these are.
~Ah ! what boots it, that the jest
Lightens every other brow.
What, that every other breast
Dances as the trumpets blow.
If one's own heart beats not light
On the waves of the toss'd fight,
If oneself cannot get free
From the clog of misery?
Thy lovely youthful wife grows pale
Watching by the salt sea-tide
With her children at her side
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT. 203
For the gleam of thy white sail.
Home, Tristram, to thy halls again !
To our lonely sea complain,
To our forests tell thy pain !
All round the forest sweeps off, black in shade,
But it is moonlight in the open glade ;
And in the bottom of the glade shine clear
The forest-chapel and the fountain near.
— I think, I have a fever in my blood;
Come, let me leave the shadow of this wood.
Ride down, and bathe my hot brow in the flood.
— Mild shines the cold spring in the moon's clear light
God ! 'tis her face plays in the waters bright.
' Fair love,' she says, ' canst thou forget so soon.
At this soft hour, under this sweet moon.?' —
Ah, poor soul ! if this be so.
Only death can balm thy woe.
The solitudes of the green wood
204 TRISTRAM AND ISEULT.
Had no medicine for thy mood;
The rushing battle clear'd thy blood
As little as did solitude.
— Ah ! his eyelids slowly break
Their hot seals, and let him wake ;
What new change shall we now see?
A happier? Worse it cannot be.
Is my page here ? Come, turn me to the fire !
Upon the window-panes the moon shines bright;
The wind is down — but she '11 not come to-night.
Ah no ! she is asleep in Cornwall now,
Far hence ; her dreams are fair — smooth is her brow.
Of me she recks not, nor my vain desire.
— I have had dreams, I have had dreams, my page,
Would take a score years from a strong man's age;
And with a blood like mine, will leave, I fear.
Scant leisure for a second messenger.
— My princess, art thou there ? Sweet, 'tis too late !
To bed, and sleep ! my fever is gone by ;
To-night my page shall keep me company.
Where do the children sleep ? kiss them for me !
Poor child, thou art almost as pale as I;
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT. 205
This comes of nursing long and watching late.
To bed — good night!
She left the gleam-lit fire-place,
She came to the bed-side ;
She took his hands in hers — her tears
Down on her slender fingers rain'd.
She raised her eyes upon his face —
Not with a look of wounded pride,
A look as if the heart complain' d —
Her look was like a sad embrace;
The gaze of one who can divine
A grief, and sympathise.
Sweet flower ! thy children's eyes
Are not more innocent than thine.
But they sleep in shelter'd rest,
Like helpless birds in the warm nest,
On the castle's southern side ;
Where feebly comes the mournful roar
Of buffeting wind and surging tide
Through many a room and corridor.
— Full on their window the moon's ray
Makes their chamber as bright as day.
2o6 TRISTRAM AND ISEULT.
It shines upon the blank white walls,
And on the snowy pillow falls,
And on two angel- heads doth play
Turn'd to each other — the eyes closed,
The lashes on the cheeks reposed.
Round each sweet brow the cap close-set
Hardly lets peep the golden hair;
Through the soft-open'd lips the air
Scarcely moves the coverlet.
One little wandering arm is thrown
At random on the counterpane,
And often the fingers close in haste
As if their baby-owner chased
The butterflies again.
This stir they have, and this alone;
But else they are so still !
— Ah, tired madcaps ! you lie still ;
But were you at the window now.
To look forth on the fairy sight
Of your illumined haunts by night,
To see the park-glades where you play
Far lovelier than they are by day.
To see the sparkle on the eaves,
And upon every giant-bough
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT, 207
Of those old oaks, whose wet red leaves
Are jeweird with bright drops of rain —
How would your voices run again !
And far beyond the sparkling trees
Of the castle-park one sees
The bare heaths spreading, clear as day,
Moor behind moor, far, far away,
Into the heart of Brittany.
And here and there, lock'd by the land,
Long inlets of smooth glittering sea.
And many a stretch of watery sand
All shining in the white moon-beams —
But you see fairer in your dreams.
What voices are these on the clear night air.?
What lights in the court — what steps on the stair?
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT.
Iseult of folanlj.
"D AISE the light, my page ! that I may see her.—
Thou art come at last then, haughty Queen !
Long I've waited, long I've fought my fever.
Late thou comest, cruel thou hast been.
Blame me not, poor sufferer! that I tarried;
Bound I was, I could not break the band.
Chide not with the past, but feel the present !
I am here — we meet — I hold thy hand.
Thou art come, indeed — thou hast rejoin'd me;
Thou hast dared it — but too late to save.
Fear not now that men should tax thine honour!
I am dying; build — (thou may'st) — my grave!
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT. 209
Tristram, ah, for love of Heaven, speak kindly !
What, I hear these bitter words from thee?
Sick with grief I am, and faint with travel —
Take my hand — dear Tristram, look on me !
I forgot, thou comest from thy voyage —
Yes, the spray is on thy cloak and hair.
But thy dark eyes are not dimm'd, proud Iseult !
And thy beauty never was more fair.
Ah, harsh flatterer ! let alone my beauty !
I, like thee, have left my youth afar.
Take my hand, and touch these wasted fingers —
See my cheek and lips, how white they are !
Thou art paler — but thy sweet charm, Iseult!
Would not fade with the dull years away.
Ah, how fair thou standest in the moonlight !
I forgive thee, Iseult ! — thou wilt stay ?
VOL. I. P
2IO TRISTRAM AND ISEULT.
Fear me not, I will be always with thee;
I will watch thee, tend thee, soothe thy pain;
Sing thee tales of true, long-parted lovers,
Join'd at evening of their days again.
No, thou shalt not speak! I should be finding
Something alter'd in thy courtly tone.
Sit — sit by me ! I will think, we've lived so
In the green wood, all our lives, alone.
Alter'd, Tristram? Not in courts, believe me,
Love like mine is alter'd in the breast;
Courtly life is light and cannot reach it —
Ah! it lives, because so deep-suppress'd !
What, thou think'st men speak in courtly chambers
Words by which the wretched are consoled?
What, thou think'st this aching brow was cooler,
Circled, Tristram, by a band of gold?
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT. 211
Royal state with Marc, my deep-wrong'd husband —
That was bliss to make my sorrows flee !
Silken courtiers whispering honied nothings —
Those were friends to make me false to thee !
Ah, on which, if both our lots were balanced,
Was indeed the heaviest burden thrown —
Thee, a pining exile in thy forest.
Me, a smiling queen upon my throne?
Vain and strange debate, where both have suffer' d,
Both have pass'd a youth constrain'd and sad.
Both have brought their anxious day to evening,
And have now short space for being glad !
Join'd we are henceforth; nor will thy people.
Nor thy younger Iseult take it ill.
That a former rival shares her office.
When she sees her humbled, pale, and still.
I, a faded watcher by thy pillow,
I, a statue on thy chapel-floor,
Pour'd in grief before the Virgin-Mother,
Rouse no anger, make no rivals more.
212 TRISTRAM AND ISEULT,
She will cry: 'Is this the foe I dreaded?
This his idol? this that royal bride?
Ah, an hour of health would purge his eyesight !
Stay, pale queen ! for ever by my side.'
Hush, no words 1 that smile, I see, forgives me.
I am now thy nurse, I bid thee sleep.
Close thine eyes — this flooding moonlight blinds
them ! —
Nay, all's well again! thou must not weep.
I am happy ! yet I feel, there 's something
Swells my heart, and takes my breath away.
Through a mist I see thee; near — come nearer!
Bend — bend down! — I yet have much to say.
Heaven ! his head sinks back upon the pillow ! —
Tristram ! Tristram ! let thy heart not fail.
Call on God and on the holy angels !
What, love, courage! — Christ! he is so pale.
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT. 213
Tr I sir am.
Hush, 'tis vain, I feel my end approaching!
This is what my mother said should be,
When the fierce pains took her in the forest,
The deep draughts of death, in bearing me.
' Son,' she said, ' thy name shall be of sorrow ;
Tristram art thou call'd for my death's sake.'
So she said, and died in the drear forest —
Grief since then his home with me doth make.
I am dying. — Start not, nor look wildly!
Me, thy living friend, thou canst not save.
But, since living we were ununited,
Go not far, O Iseult ! from my grave.
Rise, go hence, and seek the princess Iseult ;
Speak her fair, she is of royal blood !
Say, I charged her, that thou stay beside me.
She will grant it; she is kind and good.
Now to sail the seas of death I leave thee —
One last kiss upon the living shore!
214 TRISTRAM AND ISEULT.
Tristram ! — Tristram ! — stay — receive me with thee !
Iseult leaves thee, Tristram! never more.
* s(s 5i« *
You see them clear — the moon shines bright.
Slow, slow and softly, where she stood.
She sinks upon the ground; — her hood
Had fallen back, her arms outspread
Still holds her lover's hands ; her head
Is bow'd, half-buried, on the bed.
O'er the blanch'd sheet her raven hair
Lies in disorder'd streams; and there.
Strung like white stars, the pearls still are,
And the golden bracelets, heavy and rare,
Flash on her white arms still.
The very same which yesternight
FlashM in the silver sconces' light,
When the feast was gay and the laughter loud
In Tyntagel's palace proud.
But then they deck'd a restless ghost
With hot-flush'd cheeks and brilliant eyes.
And quivering lips on which the tide
Of courtly speech abruptly died,
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT. 215
And a glance which over the crowded floor,
The dancers, and the festive host,
Flew ever to the door.
That the knights eyed her in surprise,
And the dames whispered scoffingly :
' Her moods, good lack, they pass like showers !
But yesternight and she would be
As pale and still as wither'd flowers,
And now to-night she laughs and speaks
And has a colour in her cheeks ;
Christ keep us from such fantasy ! ' —
Yes, now the longing is o'erpast,
Which, dogg'd by fear and fought by shame,
Shook her weak bosom day and night.
Consumed her beauty like a flame.
And dimm'd it like the desert-blast.
And though the curtains hide her face,
Yet were it lifted to the hght,
The sweet expression of her brow
Would charm the gazer, till his thought
Erased the ravages of time,
Fiird up the hollow cheek, and brought
A freshness back as of her prime —
2i6 TRISTRAM AND ISEULT.
So healing is her quiet now.
So perfectly the lines express
A tranquil, settled loveliness,
Her younger rival's purest grace.
The air of the December-night
Steals coldly around the chamber bright.
Where those lifeless lovers be.
Swinging with it, in the light
Flaps the ghostlike tapestry.
And on the arras wrought you see
A stately Huntsman, clad in green,
And round him a fresh forest-scene.
On that clear forest-knoll he stays,
With his pack round him, and delays.
He stares and stares, with troubled face,
At this huge, gleam-lit fireplace,
At that bright, iron-figured door.
And those blown rushes on the floor.
He gazes down into the room
With heated cheeks and flurried air.
And to himself he seems to say:
' What place is this, and who are they?
Who is that kneeling Lady fair ?
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT. 217
And on his pillows thai pale Knight
Who seems of marble on a tomb ?
How comes it here, this chamber bright,
Through whose mulliond windows clear
The castle-court all wet with rain,
The drawbridge and the moat appear,
And then the beach, and, mark'd with spray,
The sunken reefs, and far aivay
The unquiet bright Atlantic plain?
— What, has some glamour made me sleep,
And sent me with my dogs to sweep.
By night, with boisterous bugle-peal.
Through some old, sea-side, knightly hall,
Not in the free green wood at all?
That Knighfs asleep, and at her prayer
That Lady by the bed doth kneel —
Then hush, thou boisterous bugle-peal T
— The wild boar rustles in his lair;
The fierce hounds snuff the tainted air ;
But lord and hounds keep rooted there.
Cheer, cheer thy dogs into the brake,
O Hunter ! and without a fear
Thy golden-tassell'd bugle blow,
2i8 TRISTRAM AND ISEULT.
And through the glades thy pastime take;
For thou wilt rouse no sleepers here !
For these thou seest are unmoved;
Cold, cold as those who lived and loved
A thousand years ago.
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT.
Ilstult of 23rittanB.
A YEAR had flown, and o'er the sea away,
In Cornwall, Tristram and Queen Iseult lay ;
In King Marc's chapel, in Tyntagel old —
There in a ship they bore those lovers cold.
The young surviving Iseult, one bright day,
Had wander'd forth. Her children were at play
In a green circular hollow in the heath
Which borders the sea-shore — a country path
Creeps over it from the till'd fields behind.
The hollow's grassy banks are soft-inclined,
And to one standing on them, far and near
The lone unbroken view spreads bright and clear
Over the waste. This cirque of open ground
Is light and green; the heather, which all round
Creeps thickly, grows not here ; but the pale grass
Is strewn with rocks, and many a shiver'd mass,
220 TRISTRAM AND ISEULT.
Of vein'd white-gleaming quartz, and here and there
Dotted with holly-trees and juniper.
In the smooth centre of the opening stood
Three hollies side by side, and made a screen,
Warm with the winter-sun, of burnish'd green
With scarlet berries gemm'd, the fell-fare's food.
Under the glittering hollies Iseult stands
Watching her children play ; their little hands
Are busy gathering spars of quartz, and streams
Of stagshorn for their hats ; anon, with screams
Of mad delight they drop their spoils, and bound
Among the holly-clumps and broken ground.
Racing full speed, and startling in their rush
The fell-fares and the speckled missel-thrush
Out of their glossy coverts; — but when now
Their cheeks were flush'd, and over each hot brow.
Under the feather'd hats of the sweet pair.
In blinding masses shower'd the golden hair —
Then Iseult call'd them to her, and the three
Clustered under the holly-screen, and she
Told them an old-world Breton history.
Warm in their mantles wrapt, the three stood there,
Under the hollies, in the clear still air-—
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT. 221
Mantles with those rich furs deep glistering
Which Venice ships do from swart Egypt bring.
Long they stay'd still — then, pacing at their ease,
Moved up and down under the glossy trees;
But still, as they pursued their warm dry road,
From Iseult's lips the unbroken story flow'd,
And still the children listen'd, their blue eves
Fix'd on their mother's face in wide surprise;
Nor did their looks stray once to the sea-side,
Nor to the brown heaths round them, bright and wide,
Nor to the snow, which, though 'twas all away
From the open heath, still by the hedgerows lay,
Nor to the shining sea-fowl, that with screams
Bore up from where the bright Atlantic gleams.
Swooping to landward ; nor to where, quite clear.
The fell-fares settled on the thickets near.
And they would still have listen'd, till dark night
Came keen and chill down on the heather bright;
But, when the red glow on the sea grew cold,
And the grey turrets of the castle old
Look'd sternly through the frosty evening-air,
Then Iseult took by the hand those children fair,
And brought her tale to an end, and found the path.
And led them home over the darkening heath.
222 TRISTRAM AND ISEULT.
And is she happy? Does she see unmoved
The days in which she might have lived and loved
Slip without bringing bliss slowly away,
One after one, to-morrow like to-day?
Joy has not found her yet, nor ever will —
Is it this thought which makes her mien so still,
Her features so fatigued, her eyes, though sweet.
So sunk, so rarely lifted save to meet
Her children's ? She moves slow ; her voice alone
Hath yet an infantine and silver tone.
But even that comes languidly; in truth.
She seems one dying in a mask of youth.
And now she will go home, and softly lay
Her laughing children in their beds, and play
Awhile with them before they sleep; and then
She'll light her silver lamp, which fishermen
Dragging their nets through the rough waves, afar,
Along this iron coast, know like a star.
And take her broidery-frame, and there she'll sit
Hour after hour, her gold curls sweeping it ;
Lifdng her soft-bent head only to mind
Her children, or to listen to the wind.
And when the clock peals midnight, she will move
Her work away, and let her fingers rove
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT. 223
Across the shaggy brows of Tristram's hound
Who lies, guarding her feet, along the ground;
Or else she will fall musing, her blue eyes
Fix'd, her slight hands clasp'd on her lap; then rise,
And at her prie-dieu kneel, until she have told
Her rosary-beads of ebony tipp'd with gold,
Then to her soft sleep — and to-morrow '11 be
To-day's exact repeated Q^^y.
Yes, it is lonely for her in her hall.
The children, and the grey-hair'd seneschal,
Her women, and Sir Tristram's aged hound.
Are there the sole companions to be found.
But these she loves; and noisier life than this
She would find ill to bear, weak as she is.
She has her children, too, and night and day
Is with them; and the wide heaths where they play.
The hollies, and the cliff, and the sea-shore.
The sand, the sea-birds, and the distant sails,
These are to her dear as to them; the tales
With which this day the children she beguiled
She gleaned from Breton grandames, when a child,
In every hut along this sea- coast wild;
224 TRISTRAM AND ISEULT.
She herself loves them still, and, when they are told,
Can forget all to hear them, as of old.
Dear saints, it is not sorrow, as I hear.
Not suffering, which shuts up eye and ear
To all that has delighted them before.
And lets us be what we were once no more.
No, we may suffer deeply, yet retain
Power to be moved and soothed, for all our pain.
By what of old pleased us, and will again.
No, 'tis the gradual furnace of the world.
In whose hot air our spirits are upcurl'd
Until they crumble, or else grow like steel —
Which kills in us the bloom, the youth, the spring —
Which leaves the fierce necessity to feel.
But takes away the power — -this can avail.
By drying up our joy in everything,
To make our former pleasures all seem stale.
This, or some tyrannous single thought, some fit
Of passion, which subdues our souls to it.
Till for its sake alone we live and move —
Call it ambition, or remorse, or love —
This too can change us wholly, and make seem
All which we did before, shadow and dream.
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT. 225
And yet, I swear, it angers me to see
How this fool passion gulls men potently;
Being, in truth, but a diseased unrest,
And an unnatural overheat at best.
How they are full of languor and distress
Not having it ; which when they do possess.
They straightway are burnt up with fume and care,
And spend their lives in posting here and there
Where this plague drives them; and have little ease,
Are furious with themselves, and hard to please.
Like that bold Caesar, the famed Roman wight,
Who wept at reading of a Grecian knight
Who made a name at younger years than he ;
Or that renown' d mirror of chivalry,
Prince Alexander, Philip's peerless son,
Who carried the great war from IMacedon
Into the Soudan's realm, and thundered on
To die at thirty-five in Babylon.
What tale did Iseult to the children say,
Under the hollies, that bright winter's day?
She told them of the fairy-haunted land
Away the other side of Brittany,
VOL. I. Q
226 TRISTRAM AND ISEULT.
Beyond the heaths, edged by the lonely sea;
Of the deep forest-glades of Broce-liande,
Through whose green boughs the golden sunshine
Where Merlin by the enchanted thorn-tree sleeps.
For here he came with the fay Vivian,
One April, when the warm days first began;
He was on foot, and that false fay, his friend.
On her white palfrey; here he met his end,
In these lone sylvan glades, that April-day.
This tale of Merlin and the lovely fay
Was the one Iseult chose, and she brought clear
Before the children's fancy him and her.
Blowing between the stems, the forest-air
Had loosen'd the brown curls of Vivian's hair,
Which play'd on her flush'd cheek, and her blue eyes
Sparkled with mocking glee and exercise.
Her palfrey's flanks were mired and bathed in sweat,
For they had travell'd far and not stopp'd yet.
A briar in that tangled wilderness
Had scored her white right hand, which she allows
To rest ungloved on her green riding-dress;
The other warded off the drooping boughs.
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT. 227
But Still she chatted on, with her blue eyes
Fix'd full on Merlin's face, her stately prize.
Her 'haviour had the morning's fresh clear grace,
The spirit of the woods was in her face ;
She look'd so witching fair, that learned wight
Forgot his craft, and his best wits took flight.
And he grew fond, and eager to obey
His mistress, use her empire as she may.
They came to where the brushwood ceased, and day
Peer'd 'twixt the stems; and the ground broke away,
In a sloped sward down to a brawling brook.
And up as high as where they stood to look
On the brook's farther side was clear; but then
The underwood and trees began again.
This open glen was studded thick with thorns
Then white with blossom ; and you saw the horns,
Through the green fern, of the shy fallow-deer
Who come at noon down to the w^ater here.
You saw the bright-eyed squirrels dart along
Under the thorns on the green sward ; and strong
The blackbird whistled from the dingles near.
And the weird chipping of the woodpecker
228 TRISTRAM AND ISEULT.
Rang lonelily and sharp ; the sky was fair,
And a fresh breath of spring stirr'd everywhere.
Merlin and Vivian stopp'd on the slope's brow,
To gaze on the green sea of leaf and bough
Which glistering lay all round them, lone and mild,
As if to itself the quiet forest smiled.
Upon the brow-top grew a thorn, and here
The grass was dry and moss'd, and you saw clear
Across the hollow ; white anemonies
Starr'd the cool turf, and clumps of primroses
Ran out from the dark underwood behind;
No fairer resting-place a man could find.
' Here let us halt,' said Merlin then ; and she
Nodded, and tied her palfrey to a tree.
They sate them down together, and a sleep
Fell upon Merlin, more like death, so deep.
Her finger on her lips, then Vivian rose,
And from her brown-lock'd head the wimple throws,
And takes it in her hand, and waves it over
The blossom'd thorn-tree and her sleeping lover.
Nine times she waved the fluttering wimple round,
And made a little plot of magic ground;
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT. 229
And in that daisied circle, as men say,
Is Merlin prisoner till the judgment-day,
But she herself whither she will can rove —
For she was passing weary of his love.
CAINT BRANDAN sails the northern main;
The brotherhoods of saints are glad.
He greets them once, he sails again;
So late ! — such storms ! — The Saint is mad !
He heard, across the howling seas,
Chime convent-bells on wintry nights;
He saw, on spray-swept Hebrides,
Twinkle the monastery- lights ;
But north, still north. Saint Brandan steer'd-
And now no bells, no convents more !
The hurtling Polar lights are near'd.
The sea without a human shore.
At last — (it was the Christmas night;
Stars shone after a day of storm) —
He sees float past an iceberg white,
And on it — Christ! — a living form.
SAINT BRAND AN. 231
That furtive mien, that scowling eye,
Of hair that red and tufted fell
It is — Oh, where shall Brandan fly? —
The traitor Judas, out of hell!
Palsied with terror, Brandan sate ;
The moon was bright, the iceberg near.
He hears a voice sigh humbly : ' Wait !
By high permission I am here.
'One moment wait, thou holy man!
On earth my crime, my death, they knew;
My name is under all men's ban —
Ah, tell them of my respite too !
' Tell them, one blessed Christmas-night —
(It was the first after I came,
Breathing self-murder, frenzy, spite.
To rue my guilt in endless flame) —
'I felt, as I in torment lay
'Mid the souls plagued by heavenly power,
An angel touch mine arm, and say :
Go hence, and cool thyself an hour !
232 SAINT BRANDAN.
'"Ah, whence this mercy, Lord?" I said.
The Leper recollect^ said he,
Who ask'd the passers-hy for aid,
hi Joppa, and thy charity.
'Then I remember'd how I went,
In Joppa, through the pubhc street,
One morn when the sirocco spent
Its storms of dust, with burning heat;
'And in the street a leper sate,
Shivering with fever, naked, old;
Sand raked his sores from heel to pate,
The hot wind fever'd him five-fold.
' He gazed upon me as I pass'd.
And murmur'd : Help me, or I die ! —
To the poor wretch my cloak I cast.
Saw him look eased, and hurried by.
'Oh, Brandan, think what grace divine.
What blessing must full goodness shower,
When fragment of it small, like mine,
Hath such inestimable power!
SAINT BRANDAN. 233
'Well-fed, well-clothed, well-friended, I
Did that chance act of good, that one!
Then went my way to kill and lie —
Forgot my good as soon as done.
'That germ of kindness, in the womb
Of mercy caught, did not expire ;
Outlives my guilt, outlives my doom.
And friends me in the pit of fire.
' Once every year, when carols wake,
On earth, the Christmas-night's repose,
Arising from the sinners' lake,
I journey to these healing snows.
' I stanch with ice my burning breast.
With silence balm my whirling brain.
O Brandan ! to this hour of rest
That Joppan leper's ease was pain.'
Tears started to Saint Brandan's eyes;
He bow'd his head, he breathed a prayer.
Then look'd, and, lo ! the frosty skies —
The iceberg, and no tenant there !
TN summer, on the headlands,
The Baltic Sea along,
Sits Neckan with his harp of gold,
And sings his plaintive song.
Green rolls, beneath the headlands,
Green rolls the Baltic Sea ;
And there, below the Neckan's feet
His wife and children be.
He sings not of the ocean,
Its shells and roses pale ;
Of earth, of earth the Neckan sings,
He hath no other tale.
He sits upon the headlands,
And sings a mournful stave
Of all he saw and felt on earth,
Far from the kind sea-wave.
THE NECKAN. 235
Sings how, a knight, he wander'd
By castle, field, and town —
But earthly knights have harder hearts
Than the sea-children own.
Sings of his earthly bridal —
Priest, knights, and ladies gay.
' — And who art thou,' the priest began,
' Sir Knight, who wedd'st to-day ? ' —
' — I am no knight,' he answered;
' From the sea-waves I come/ —
The knights drew sword, the ladies scream'd,
The surpliced priest stood dumb.
He sings how from the chapel
He vanished with his bride,
And bore her down to the sea-halls,
Beneath the salt sea-tide.
He sings how she sits weeping
'Mid shells that round her lie.
' — False Neckan shares my bed,' she weeps ;
' No Christian mate have I.' —
J36 THE NECKAN.
He sings how through the billows
He rose to earth again,
And sought a priest to sign the cross,
That Neckan Heaven might gain.
He sings how, on an evening,
Beneath the birch-trees cool,
He sate and play'd his harp of gold.
Beside the river-pool.
Beside the pool sate Neckan —
Tears fill'd his mild blue eye.
On his white mule, across the bridge,
A cassock'd priest rode by.
' — Why sitt'st thou there, O Neckan,
And play'st thy harp of gold.?
Sooner shall this my staff bear leaves,
Than thou shalt Heaven behold.' —
But, lo, the staff, it budded !
It green'd, it branch' d, it waved.
*~ O ruth of God,' the priest cried out,
'This lost sea-creature saved!'-
THE NECK AN. 237
The cassock'd priest rode onwards,
And vanish'd with his mule ;
But Neckan in the twilight grey-
Wept by the river- pool.
He wept: 'The earth hath kindness,
The sea, the starry poles;
Earth, sea, and sky, and God above —
But, ah, not human souls ! '
In summer, on the headlands,
The Baltic Sea along,
Sits Neckan with his harp of gold.
And sings this plaintive song.
THE FORSAKEN MERMAN.
/^OME, dear children, let us away;
Down and away below!
Now my brothers call from the bay,
Now the great winds shoreward blow,
Now the salt tides seaward flow;
Now the wild white horses play,
Champ and chafe and toss in the spray.
Children dear, let us away!
This way, this way !
Call her once before you go —
Call once yet !
In a voice that she will know :
' Margaret ! Margaret ! '
Children's voices should be dear
(Call once more) to a mother's ear;
Children's voices, wild with pain —
Surely she will come again !
Call her once and come away;
This way, this way!
THE FORSAKEN MERMAN. 239
* Mother dear, we cannot stay!
The wild white horses foam and fret.'
Margaret ! Margaret !
Come, dear children, come away down ;
Call no more !
One last look at the white -vvall'd town,
And the litde grey church on the windy shore ;
Then come down !
She will not come though you call all day;
Come away, come away!
Children dear, was it yesterday
We heard the sweet bells over the bay?
In the caverns where we lay,
Through the surf and through the swell,
The far-off sound of a silver bell?
Sand-strewn caverns, cool and deep.
Where the vv^inds are all asleep ;
Where the spent lights quiver and gleam,
Where the salt weed sways in the stream,
Where the sea-beasts, ranged all round,
Feed in the ooze of their pasture-ground;
240 THE FORSAKEN MERMAN,
Where the sea-snakes coil and twine,
Dry their mail and bask in the brine;
Where great whales come sailing by,
Sail and sail, with unshut eye,
Round the world for ever and aye?
When did music come this way?
Children dear, was it yesterday?
Children dear, was it yesterday
(Call yet once) that she went away ?
Once she sate with you and me,
On a red gold throne in the heart of the sea,
And the youngest sate on her knee.
She comb'd its bright hair, and she tended it well,
When down swung the sound of a far-off bell.
She sigh'd, she look'd up through the clear green sea ;
She said : ' I must go, for my kinsfolk pray
In the little grey church on the shore to-day.
'Twill be Easter-time in the world — ah me!
And I lose my poor soul. Merman ! here with thee.'
I said : ' Go up, dear heart, through the waves ;
Say thy prayer, and come back to the kind sea-caves !'
She smiled, she went up through the surf in the bay.
Children dear, was it yesterday?
THE FORSAKEN MERMAN. 241
Children dear, were we long alone?
* The sea grows stormy, the little ones moan ;
Long prayers,' I said, ' in the world they say ;
Come I ' I said ; and we rose through the surf in the bay.
We went up the beach, by the sandy down
Where the sea-stocks bloom, to the white-wall'd town ;
Through the narrow paved streets, where all was still,
To the little grey church on the windy hill.
From the church came a murmur of folk at their
But we stood without in the cold blowing airs.
We climb'd on the graves, on the stones worn with
And we gazed up the aisle through the small leaded
She sate by the pillar ; we saw her clear :
' Margaret, hist ! come quick, we are here !
Dear heart,' I said, 'we are long alone;
The sea grows stormy, the little ones moan.'
But, ah, she gave me never a look.
For her eyes were seal'd to the holy book !
Loud prays the priest; shut stands the door.
Come away, children, call no more!
Come away, come down, call no more !
VOL. I. R
242 THE FORSAKEN MERMAN.
Down, down, down !
Down to the depths of the sea !
She sits at her wheel in the humming town,
Singing most joyfully.
Hark what she sings: 'O joy, O joy,
For the humming street, and the child with its toy !
For the priest, and the bell, and the holy well ;
For the wheel where I spun.
And the blessed light of the sun 1 '
And so she sings her fill.
Singing most joyfully.
Till the shuttle falls from her hand,
And the whizzing wheel stands still.
She steals to the window, and looks at the sand,
And over the sand at the sea;
And her eyes are set in a stare ;
And anon there breaks a sigh,
And anon there drops a tear,
From a sorrow-clouded eye.
And a heart sorrow-laden,
A long, long sigh;
For the cold strange eyes of a little Mermaiden,
And the gleam of her golden hair.
THE FORSAKEN MERMAN. 243
Come away, away children;
Come children, come down !
The hoarse wind blows colder;
Lights shine in the town.
She will start from her slumber
When gusts shake the door;
She will hear the winds howling,
Will hear the waves roar.
We shall see, while above us
The waves roar and whirl,
A ceiling of amber,
A pavement of pearl.
Singing : ' Here came a mortal,
But faithless was she !
And alone dwell for ever
The kings of the sea.'
But, children, at midnight.
When soft the winds blow.
When clear falls the moonlight,
When spring-tides are low;
When sweet airs come seaward
From heaths starr'd with broom,
And high rocks throw mildly
244 THE FORSAKEN MERMAN.
On the blanch'd sands a gloom;
Up the still, glistening beaches,
Up the creeks we will hie,
Over banks of bright seaweed
The ebb-tide leaves dry.
We will gaze, from the sand-hills,
At the white, sleeping town;
At the church on the hill-side —
And then come back down.
Singing : * There dwells a loved one,
But cruel is she !
She left lonely for ever
The kings of the sea.'
A TOMB AMONG THE
OO rest, for ever rest, O princely Pair!
In your high church, 'mid the still mountain-air,
Where horn, and hound, and vassals, never come.
Only the blessed Saints are smiling dumb
From the rich painted windows of the nave
On aisle, and transept, and your marble grave;
Where thou, young Prince, shalt never more arise
From the fringed mattress where thy Duchess lies,
On autumn-mornings, when the bugle sounds,
And ride across the drawbridge with thy hounds
To hunt the boar in the crisp woods till eve.
And thou, O Princess, shalt no more receive,
Thou and thy ladies, in the hall of state,
The jaded hunters with their bloody freight,
Coming benighted to the castle-gate.
2+6 A TOMB AMONG THE MOUNTAINS.
So sleep, for ever sleep, O marble Pair!
Or, if ye wake, let it be then, when fair
On the carved western front a flood of light
Streams from the setting sun, and colours bright
Prophets, transfigured Saints, and Martyrs brave.
In the vast western window of the nave ;
And on the pavement round the tomb there glints
A chequer-work of glowing sapphire-tints,
And amethyst, and ruby — then unclose
Your eyelids on the stone where ye repose,
And from your broider'd pillows lift your heads,
And rise upon your cold white marble beds;
And looking down on the warm rosy tints
Which chequer, at your feet, the illumined flints,
Say: W/iaf z's this? we are in bliss— forgiven —
Behold the pavement of the courts of Heaven I
Or let it be on autumn-nights, when rain
Doth rustlingly above your heads complain
On the smooth leaden roof, and on the walls
Shedding her pensive light at intervals
The moon through the clere-story windows shines,
And the wind washes 'mid the mountain-pines; —
Then, gazing up through the dim pillars high,
The foliaged marble forest where ye lie,
A TOMB AMONG THE MOUNTAINS. 247
Hush, ye will say, z'/ is eternity !
This is the glimmering verge of Heaven, and these
The columns of the heavenly palaces.
And in the sweeping of the wind your ear
The passage of the Angels' wings will hear,
And on the lichen-crusted leads above
The rustle of the eternal rain of love.
Austerity of Poetry.
'T^HAT son of Italy who tried to blow,^
Ere Dante came, the trump of sacred song,
In his light youth amid a festal throng
Sate with his bride to see a public show.
Fair was the bride, and on her front did glow
Youth like a star; and what to youth belong —
Gay raiment, sparkling gauds, elation strong.
A prop gave way ! crash fell a platform ! lo,
]\Iid struggling sufferers, hurt to death, she lay !
Shuddering, they drew her garments off — and found
A robe of sackcloth next the smooth, white skin.
Such, poets, is your bride, the Muse! young, gay.
Radiant, adorn'd outside; a hidden ground
Of thought and of austerity within.
25 a SONNETS.
A Picture at Newstead.
^X rHAT made my heart, at Newstead, fullest swell ? —
'Twas not the thought of Byron, of his cry
Stormily sweet, his Titan-agony;
It was the sight of that Lord Arundel
Who struck, in heat, his child he loved so well.
And his child's reason flickered, and did die.
Painted (he will'd it) in the gallery
They hang; the picture doth the story tell.
Behold the stern, mail'd father, staff in hand !
The Httle fair-hair'd son, with vacant gaze,
Where no more lights of sense or knowledge are !
Methinks the woe, which made that father stand
Baring his dumb remorse to future days.
Was woe than Byron's woe more tragic far.
TN Paris all look'd hot and like to fade.
Sere, in the .garden of the Tuileries,
Sere with September, droop'd the chestnut-trees.
'Twas dawn; a brougham roll'd through the streets,
Halt at the white and silent colonnade
Of the French Theatre. Worn with disease,
Rachel, with eyes no gazing can appease,
Sate in the brougham, and those blank walls survey'd.
She follows the gay world, whose swarms have fled
To Switzerland, to Baden, to the Rhine ;
Why stops she by this empty play-house drear?
Ah, where the spirit its highest hfe hath led,
All spots, match'd with that spot, are less divine ;
And Rachel's Switzerland, her Rhine, is here !
T INTO a lonely villa, in a dell
Above the fragrant warm Proveh^al shore,
The dying Rachel in a chair they bore
Up the steep pine-plumed paths of the Estrelle,
And laid her in a stately room, where fell
The shadow of a marble Muse of yore,
The rose-crown'd queen of legendary lore,
Polymnia, full on her death-bed. — 'Twas well!
The fret and misery of our northern towns,
In this her life's last day, our poor, our pain,
Our jangle of false wits, our climate's frowns,
Do for this radiant Greek-soul'd artist cease.
Sole object of her dying eyes remain
The beauty and the glorious art of Greece.
C PRUNG from the blood of Israel's scatter d race,
At a mean inn in German Aarau born,
To forms from antique Greece and Rome uptorn,
Trick'd out with a Parisian speech and face,
Imparting life renew'd, old classic grace;
Then, soothing with thy Christian strain forlorn,
A-Kempis ! her departing soul outworn,
While by her bedside Hebrew rites have place — -
Ah, not the radiant spirit of Greece alone
She had — one power, which made her breast its home !
In her, hke us, there clash'd, contending powers,
Germany, France, Christ, Moses, Athens, Rome,
The strife, the mixture in her soul, are ours;
Her genius and her glory are her own.
P VEN in a palace ^ life may be led well !
So spake the imperial sage, purest of men,
Marcus Aurelius. But the stifling den
Of common life, where, crowded up pell-mell.
Our freedom for a little bread we sell,
And drudge under some foolish master's ken
Who rates us if we peer outside our pen —
Match'd with a palace, is not this a hell?
Even in a palace I On his truth sincere,
Who spoke these words, no shadow ever came ;
And when my ill-school'd spirit is aflame
Some nobler, ampler stage of life to win,
I'll stop, and say : ' There were no succour here !
The aids to noble life are all within.'
"'T^WAS August, and the fierce sun overhead
Smote on the squalid streets of Bethnal Green,
And the pale weaver, through his windows seen
In Spitalfields, look'd thrice dispirited.
I met a preacher there I knew, and said :
* 111 and o'erwork'd, how fare you in this scene ? ' —
' Bravely ! ' said he ; ' for I of late have been
Much cheer'd with thoughts of Christ, the living
O human soul ! as long as thou canst so
Set up a mark of everlasting light,
Above the howling senses' ebb and flow,
To cheer thee, and to right thee if thou roam —
Not with lost toil thou labourest through the night !
Thou mak'st the heaven thou hop'st indeed thy home.
/^^ROUCH'D on the pavement, close by Belgrave
A tramp I saw, ill, moody, and tongue-tied.
A babe was in her arms, and at her side
A girl; their clothes were rags, their feet were bare.
Some labouring men, whose work lay somewhere there,
Pass'd opposite; she touch'd her girl, who hied
Across, and begg'd, and came back satisfied.
The rich she had let pass with frozen stare.
Thought I : ' Above her state this spirit towers ;
She will not ask of aliens, but of friends,
Of sharers in a common human fate.
She turns from that cold succour, which attends
The unknown little from the unknowing great.
And points us to a better time than ours.'
Bas^ and West.
TN the bare midst of Anglesey they show
Two springs which close by one another play;
And, 'Thirteen hundred years agone/ they say,
' Two saints met often where those waters flow.
One came from Penmon westward, and a glow
Whiten'd his face from the sun's frontino: rav :
Eastward the other, from the dying day,
And he with unsunn'd face did always go/
Seiriol the Bright, Kyhi the Dark! men said.
The seer from the East was then, in light,
The seer from the West was then in shade.
Ah ! now 'tis changed. In conquering sunshine
The man of the bold West now comes array'd ;
He of the mystic East is touch'd with night.
The Better Part.
T ONG fed on boundless hopes, O race of man.
How angrily thou spurn'st all simpler fare !
* Christ,' some one says, ' was human as we are ;
No judge eyes us from Heaven, our sin to scan ;
We live no more, when we have done our span.' —
' Well, then, for Christ,' thou answerest, ' who can care ?
From sin, which Heaven records not, why forbear ?
Live we like brutes our life without a plan 1 '
So answerest thou ; but why not rather say :
* Hath man no second Hfe? — Pitch this one high!
Sits there no judge in Heaven, our sin to see? —
More strictly^ theii^ the iftward judge obey I
Was Christ a man like us ? — Ah I tet us try
If we then^ too, can be such men as he V
''V/'ES, write it in the rock/ Saint Bernard said,
' Grave it on brass with adamantine pen !
'Tis God himself becomes apparent, when
God's wisdom and God's goodness are display'd,
For God of these his attributes is made.' —
Well spake the impetuous Saint, and bore of men
The suffrage captive ; now, not one in ten
Recalls the obscure opposer he outweigh'd.^
God's wisdom and God's goodness ! — Ay, but fools
Mis-define these till God knows them no more.
Wisdom and goodness, they are God ! — what schools
Have yet so much as heard this simpler lore?
This no Saint preaches, and this no Church rules ;
'Tis in the desert, now and heretofore.
T^OIL'D by our fellow-men, depress'd, outworn,
We leave the brutal world to take its way,
And, Patience! in another life, we say,
The world shall he thrust down, and we up-home.
And will not, then, the immortal armies scorn
The world's poor, routed leavings? or will they,
Who fail'd under the heat of this life's day,
Support the fervours of the heavenly morn ?
No, no ! the energy of life may be
Kept on after the grave, but not begun;
And he who flagg'd not in the earthly strife.
From strength to strength advancing — only he,
His soul well-knit, and all his battles won,
Mounts, and that hardly, to eternal life.
T/ie Good Shephei'd zvith the Kid.
J^E saves the sheep, the goats he doth not save.
So rang Tertullian's sentence, on the side
Of that unpitying Phrygian sect which cried : ^^
Him can no fount of fresh forgiveness lave,
Who sins, once wash'd by the baptismal wave.'—
So spake the fierce Tertullian. But she sigh'd,
The infant Church ! of love she felt the tide
Stream on her from her Lord's yet recent grave.
And then she smiled; and in the Catacombs,
With eye suffused but heart inspired true.
On those walls subterranean, where she hid
Her head in ignominy, death, and tombs,
She her Good Shepherd's hasty image drew —
And on his shoulders, not a lamb, a kid.
Monicas Last Prayer}^
' A H could thy grave at home, at Carthage, be ! '-
Care not for thai, and lay me zuhere I fall I
Everywhere heard will he the judgjuent- call.
But at God's altar, oh ! remember me.
Thus Monica, and died in Italy.
Yet fervent had her longing been, through all
Her course, for home at last, and burial
With her own husband, by the Libyan sea.
Had been ! but at the end, to her pure soul
All tie with all beside seem'd vain and cheap,
And union before God the only care.
Creeds pass, rites change, no altar standeth whole.
Yet we her memory, as she pray'd, will keep.
Keep by this : Life in God, and union there !
NOTE I, PAGE 4.
Saiv The Wide Prospect, and the Asian Fen.
The name Europe (EvpwTrr], the qvide prospect) probably
describes the appearance of the European coast to the
Greeks on the coast of Asia Minor opposite. The name
Asia, again, comes, it has been thought, from the muddy-
fens of the rivers of Asia Minor, such as the Gayster or
Maeander, which struck the imagination of the Greeks
living near them.
NOTE 2, PAGE 14.
* After Chephren, Mycerinus, son of Cheops, reigned
over Egypt. He abhorred his father's courses, and judged
his subjects more justly than any of their kings had done. —
To him there came an oracle from the city of Buto, to the
effect that he was to live but six years longer, and to die
in the seventh year from that time.' — Herodotus.
NOTE 3, PAGE 48.
Stagirius was a young monk to whom St. Chrysostom
addressed three books, and of whom those books give an
account. They will be found in the first volume of the
Benedictine edition of St. Chrysostom's works.
NOTE 4, PAGE 69.
That <wayside inn nve left to-day.
Those who have been long familiar with the English
Lake-Country will find no difficulty in recalling, from the
description in the text, the roadside inn at Wythburn
on the descent from Dunmail Raise towards Keswick ;
its sedentary landlord of thirty years ago, and the pas-
sage over the Wythburn Fells to Watendlath.
NOTE 5, PAGE 83.
Sohrab and Rustum.
' The story of Sohrab and Rustum is told in Sir John
Malcolm's "History of Persia," as follows: — The young
Sohrab was the fruit of one of Rustum's early amours.
He had left his mother, and sought fame under the ban-
ners of Afrasiab, whose armies he commanded, and soon
obtained a renown beyond that of all contemporary heroes
but his father. He had carried death and dismay into the
ranks of the Persians, and had terrified the boldest war-
riors of that country, before Rustum encountered him,
which at last that hero resolved to do, under a feigned
name. They met three times. The first time they parted
by mutual consent, though Sohrab had the advantage ;
the second, the youth obtained a victory, but granted life
to his unknown father ; the third was fatal to Sohrab,
who, when writhing in the pangs of death, warned his
conqueror to shun the vengeance that is inspired by
parental woes, and bade him dread the rage of the mighty
Rustum, who must soon learn that he had slain his son
Sohrab. These words, we are told, were as death to the
aged hero ; and when he recovered from a trance, he called
in despair for proofs of what Sohrab had said. The af-
flicted and dying youth tore open his mail, and showed his
father a seal which his mother had placed on his arm when
she discovered to him the secret of his birth, and bade him
seek his father. The sight of his own signet rendered
Rustum quite frantic ; he cursed himself, attempting to
put an end to his existence, and was only prevented by
the efforts of his expiring son. After Sohrab's death, he
burnt his tents and all his goods, and carried the corpse
to Seistan, where it was interred; the army ofTuran was,
agreeably to the last request of Sohrab, permitted to cross
the Oxus unmolested. To reconcile us to the improba-
bility of this tale, we are informed that Rustum could
have no idea his son was in existence. The mother of
Sohrab had written to him her child was a daughter,
fearing to lose her darling infant if she revealed the truth ;
and Rustum, as before stated, fought under a feigned name,
an usage not uncommon in the chivalrous combats of those
NOTE 6, PAGE 136.
'Balder the Good having been tormented with terrible
dreams, indicating that his life was in great peril, commu-
nicated them to the assembled ^sir, who resolved to
conjure all things to avert from him the threatened danger.
Then Frigga exacted an oath from fire and water, from
iron, and all other metals, as well as from stones, earths,
diseases, beasts, birds, poisons, and creeping things, that
none of them would do any harm to Balder. When this
was done, it became a favourite pastime of the iEsir, at
their meetings, to get Balder to stand up and serve them
as a mark, some hurling darts at him, some stones, while
others hewed at him with their swords and battle-axes, for
do they what they would, none of them could harm him, and
this was regarded by all as a great honour shown to Balder.
But when Loki beheld the scene he was sorely vexed that
Balder was not hurt. Assuming, therefore, the shape of a
woman, he went to Fensalir, the mansion of Frigga. That
goddess, when she saw the pretended woman, inquired of
her if she knew what the jEsir were doing at their meet-
ings. She replied, that they were throwing darts and
stones at Balder without being able to hurt him.
' " Ay," said Frigga, " neither metal nor wood can hurt
Balder, for I have exacted an oath from all of them."
' " What ! " exclaimed the woman, " have all things sworn
to spare Balder?"
'"All things," replied Frigga, ''except one little shrub
that grows on the eastern side of Valhalla, and is called
Mistletoe, and which I thought too young and feeble to
crave an oath from."
' As soon as Loki heard this he went away, and, resum-
ing his natural shape, cut off the mistletoe, and repaired to
the place where the gods were assembled. There he found
Hodur standing apart, without partaking of the sports, on
account of his blindness, and going up to him said, " Why
dost thou not also throw something at Balder ? "
' " Because I am blind," answered Hodur, " and see not
where Balder is, and have, moreover, nothing to throw with."
' " Come, then," said Loki, " do like the rest, and show
honour to Balder by throwing this twig at him, and I will
direct thy arm toward the place where he stands."
' Hodur then took the mistletoe, and, under the guidance
of Loki, darted it at Balder, who, pierced through and
through, fell down lifeless.'
NOTE 7, PAGE 190.
Tristram and Iseult.
* In the court of his uncle King Marc, the king of Corn-
wall, who at this time resided at the castle of Tyntagel,
Tristram became expert in all knightly exercises. — The
king of Ireland, at Tristram's solicitations, promised to
bestow his daughter Iseult in marriage on King Marc.
The mother of Iseult gave to her daughter's confidante
a philtre, or love-potion, to be administered on the night
of her nuptials. Of this beverage Tristram and Iseult, on
their voyage to Cornwall, unfortunately partook. Its
influence, during the remainder of their lives, regulated the
affections and destiny of the lovers. —
'After the arrival of Tristram and Iseult in Cornwall,
and the nuptials of the latter with King Marc, a great part
of the romance is occupied with their contrivances to pro-
cure secret interviews. — Tristram, being forced to leave
Cornwall on account of the displeasure of his uncle,
repaired to Brittany, where lived Iseult with the White
Hands. — He married her — more out of gratitude than
love. — Afterwards he proceeded to the dominions of
Arthur, which became the theatre of unnumbered exploits.
* Tristram, subsequent to these events, returned to
Brittany, and to his long-neglected wife. There, being
wounded and sick, he was soon reduced to the lowest ebb.
In this situation, he dispatched a confidant to the queen of
Cornwall, to try if he could induce her to accompany him
to Brittany, &c.' — Durilop's History of Fiction,
NOTE 8, PAGE 251.
That son of Italy who tried to blonu.
Giacopone di Todi.
NOTE 9, PAGE 261.
Recalls the obscure opposer he outiveigh''d.
Gilbert de la Porree, at the Council of Rheims, in 1148.
NOTE 10, PAGE 263.
Of that unpitying Phrygian sect ^vhich cried.
NOTE II, PAGE 264.
See St, Augustine's Confessions, book ix. chapter 11.